A study led by Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) has shown that almost half of the earth’s animal species are currently declining. Studying more than 70,000 animal species, the researchers found that 48% of them are currently undergoing population declines, with less than a 3% increase.
The study, titled “More losers than winners: investigating Anthropocene defaunation through the diversity of population trends”, was led by PhD student Catherine Finn and Dr Daniel Pincheira-Donoso from the School of Biological Sciences at QUB, and Dr Florencia Grattarola from the Czech University of Life Sciences, Prague.
This decline of biodiversity, part of what is now referred to as the sixth mass extinction — which is different than previous ones as this is caused by human activities — is worse than it was previously thought. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) keeps the “red list” of threatened species, having assessed more than 150,000 species since its creation in 1964. However, their method suggests that 28% are considered threatened with extinction, while the researchers from the Queens’ study, which used another method, claim that 33% of species considered “safe” by the IUCN are in fact declining towards the risk of extinction.
The study describes the biodiversity crisis as one of “the most pressing challenges to humanity for the coming decades” that threatens the functioning of ecosystems life depends on, the spread of diseases and the stability of the global economy. Dr Pincheira-Donoso said to the BBC, “Our work is a drastic alert about the current magnitude of this crisis that has already devastating impacts on the stability of nature as a whole, and on human health and wellbeing.”
Although the study does not specifically mention this, one of the major drives of the sixth mass extinction is animal agriculture, responsible for clearing many natural habitats to grow food for farmed animals. Therefore, working toward the vegan world would be a solution to this crisis.