Vanishing Species

Counting our Natural Blessings




A study by Canada’s Dalhousie University postulates that as many as 86 percent of Earth’s species are still unknown, and millions of organisms will remain undiscovered as extinctions accelerate worldwide at 10 to 100 times their natural rate.

If, as the study’s co-author Boris Worm suggests, our planet is home to 8.7 million species, it means scientists have cataloged fewer than 15 percent of species now alive. Many unknown organisms will wink out of existence before they can even be recorded.

Although the catalog of mammals and birds may be nearly complete, inventories of other classes of life are far behind. Only 7 percent of the predicted number of fungi and fewer than 10 percent of all ocean life forms have been identified.

Categorizing a new organism is more complicated than discovering one. “It’s a long process,” Worm explains. “Most scientists will describe dozens of species in their lifetime, if they’re really lucky. What’s been discovered so far are those things that are easy to find, that are conspicuous, that are relatively large. There is an age of discovery ahead of us when we could find out so much more of what lives with us on this planet.”


Source: National Geographic

Edit ModuleShow Tags

More from Natural Awakenings

Moth Misery

Entire ecosystems rest on the delicate wings of moths, yet they’re dying off in distressing numbers from causes ranging from pesticides to urban lights.

Fish Fried

By adding in fish taken illegally, caught recreationally or discarded from commercial catches, a new study shows that the total world catch is 50 percent higher than previously reported.

Recycling Nutrients

Fruit-eating animal species such as toucans and spider monkeys—many of them declining in number—are key in spreading seeds of the CO2-absorbing trees that mitigate rising global temperatures.

Buzz Benefactors

A major supermarket chain will no longer buy fruit or vegetables from farmers that spray with any of eight pesticides that are toxic to bees.

Fouled Play

More than 90 percent of playing fields and parks in a six-state area were found to be located within 1,000 feet of corn or soybean fields in which toxic weed killers were sprayed.
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags