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Mass extinction rate 'faster than dinosaurs'

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  • npat1
    Fw: [fuelcell-energy] ... Mass extinction rate faster than dinosaurs David Fickling Tuesday May 2, 2006 Guardian Unlimited Polar bears and hippos have joined
    Message 1 of 1 , May 3, 2006
      Fw: [fuelcell-energy]
      ---------- Forwarded Message ----------
      Mass extinction rate 'faster than dinosaurs'

      David Fickling
      Tuesday May 2, 2006

      Guardian Unlimited

      Polar bears and hippos have joined the ranks of threatened species,
      along with a third of amphibians and a quarter of mammals and
      coniferous plants, according to the World Conservation Union.
      The conservation group's Red List of endangered species found that
      16,119 species are at the highest levels of extinction threat,
      equivalent to nearly 40% of all species in its survey.

      Fish are in particular danger, with more than half of freshwater
      species in the Mediterranean basin facing threats and formerly common
      ocean fish such as skate disappearing.

      The World Conservation Union, known by the acronym IUCN, found that
      more than 500 species had been added to the ranks of those classified
      as endangered, critically endangered or vulnerable since 2004 - a
      rise of 3%.

      There are estimated to be around 15m species in the world, although
      only around 12% of that number have ever been classified by
      scientists and the Red List examines 40,000 species.

      At present, animals are believed to be going extinct at 100 to 1,000
      times the usual rate, leading many researchers to claim that we are
      in the midst of a mass extinction event faster than that which wiped
      out the dinosaurs.

      IUCN director general Achim Steiner said that there was no slackening
      in the rate of global extinctions, and warned that tackling the
      problem would require governments, civil society groups and
      businesses to work together with environmentalists.

      "Biodiversity loss is increasing, not slowing down," he
      said. "Reversing this trend is possible [but] biodiversity cannot be
      saved by environmentalists alone - it must become the responsibility
      of everyone with the power and resources to act."

      The Arctic Climate Impact Assessment said in 2004 that Polar Bears
      would be extinct within 100 years, and some scientists believe that
      they could disappear within 25 years. The IUCN predicted a more
      conservative decline of 30% in the next 45 years.

      The report also said that civil breakdown in the Democratic Republic
      of Congo had led to a catastrophic decline in hippo populations, with
      the country's 30,000-strong herds losing 95% of their numbers to
      poaching and ivory hunting since 1994.

      The list showed 784 species as extinct and 65 as existing only in
      captivity. Other particularly threatened animals included the dama
      gazelle of the Sahara, the goitred gazelle of central Asia, the Angel
      shark of the North Sea, the West African pygmy hippo, and a species
      of trout from Lake Malawi.

      Two carp species from Turkey and Croatia were listed as extinct and
      one in eight classified bird species were endangered or vulnerable,
      along with a third of dragonflies. The Mediterranean herbs bugloss
      and centuary were listed as critically endangered.

      The IUCN said that people were responsible for the majority of
      extinctions, via habitat destruction or degradation. Invasive
      species, overhunting, pollution and unsustainable harvesting were
      also mentioned as major causes of threats, along with climate change.

      A 2004 report by the University of Leeds found that a quarter of land
      animals and plants could be driven to extinction by global warming.

      However, the IUCN did report some success stories. White-tailed
      eagles have been downlisted from the "near threatened" category
      to "least concern" after anti-poaching and pollution enforcement
      measures led to a doubling of its population in Europe during the

      It also said that the future of the Indian vulture looked positive
      despite a 97% population decline leading to it being listed as
      critically endangered in 2002. A veterinary drug responsible for
      accidentally poisoning the vultures has since been banned in India.


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