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The Sixth Mass Extinction Crisis and its Impact on Biodiversity and Human Welfare

Abstract

“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed” - Mahatma Gandhi

The vast number of species prevailing on planet Earth is the result of evolutionary processes that have been operating since life originated about 3.5 billion years ago. As new species evolved, a small number of species that became misfits in the prevailing environment became extinct (background extinction). However, the rapid increase in human population and humanity’s greed for luxurious living have resulted in marked environmental degradation, particularly in the recent decades, increasing species extinction hundred or even thousand-fold compared to background extinctions, thus precipitating the ‘sixth mass extinction’ crisis. Unlike the past five mass extinctions that were due to natural catastrophes, the sixth mass extinction would be exclusively the result of human activities. Habitat loss and its degradation, overex-ploitation of bioresources and climate change have been the main drivers of the sixth mass extinction crisis. Amongst human-induced environmental changes, climate change is going to affect humanity more than any other changes. Apart from exterminating a large number of both terrestrial and aquatic species, these changes bring down crop productivity and quality substantially, thus seriously compromising ecosystem services essential for human welfare. Mitigating human-induced environmental changes has become one of the highest priorities for the humanity to sustain biodiversity and human welfare.

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Correspondence to K R Shivanna.

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K R Shivanna after retiring from the Department of Botany, University of Delhi, has been associated with Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment, Bengaluru as INSA Honorary Scientist. His major interests are the structural and functional aspects of reproductive biology of flowering plants.

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Shivanna, K.R. The Sixth Mass Extinction Crisis and its Impact on Biodiversity and Human Welfare. Reson 25, 93–109 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12045-019-0924-z

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Keywords

  • Biodiversity
  • climate change
  • conservation
  • habitat destruction
  • mass extinction of species
  • overexploitation