It is inevitable. The Earth will lose about 10% of its animals and plants by 2050. It will reach 27% by 2100. The great mass extinction of this century will be greater than previously thought.
European and Australian scientists performed a model of the interconnected loss of species. The results are published in the journal Science Advances. They used one of the most powerful supercomputers in Europe.
Dr. Giovanni Strona and Professor Corey Bradshaw modeled Synthetic Earths with virtual species. The tool presents a grim prediction of the future of global diversity. The great mass extinction of this century is already upon us.
“Think of a predator species that loses its prey due to climate change. The loss of the prey species is a ‘primary extinction.’ With nothing to eat, its predator will also go extinct (a ‘coextinction’). Or a parasite that loses its host due to deforestation. All species depend in some way on other species”. So says Professor Bradshaw in a statement.
It was never possible to interconnect species on a global scale to estimate losses from coextinctions. So this virtual Earth of interconnected species networks was constructed. Climate and land use changes were included to inform future projections.
“We show that by 2100 there will be up to 34% more coextinctions,” says Strona. “This study is unique. It also takes into account the secondary effect on biodiversity. Thus it estimates the effect of species extinctions beyond the direct effects. Our model provides detailed insight into the variation in species diversity patterns.”
A child born today will see big changes by age 70. Extinct tiny orchids and tiny insects… to iconic animals like the elephant and the koala.”
Climate change is currently one of the main drivers of extinctions on a global scale. But we underestimate its true effects on the diversity of life on Earth. What will happen if we don’t make major changes in human society? We risk losing much of what sustains life on our planet.