WE are barreling into the Anthropocene, the sixth mass extinction in the history of the planet. A recent study published in the journal Science concluded that the world’s species are disappearing as much as 1,000 times faster than the rate at which species naturally go extinct. It’s a one-two punch — on top of the ecosystems we’ve broken, extreme weather from a changing climate causes even more damage. By 2100, researchers say, one-third to one-half of all Earth’s species could be wiped out.
As a result, efforts to protect species are ramping up as governments, scientists and nonprofit organizations try to build a modern version of Noah’s Ark. The new ark certainly won’t come in the form of a large boat,1 or even always a place set aside. Instead it is a patchwork quilt of approaches, including assisted migration, seed banks and new preserves and travel corridors based on where species are likely to migrate as seas rise or food sources die out.
The questions are complex. What species do you save? The ones most at risk? Charismatic animals, such as lions or bears or elephants? The ones most likely to survive? The species that hold the most value for us?
- 1. RESEARCHERS have also focused on “refugia,” regions around the world that have remained stable during previous swings of the Earth’s climate — and that might be the best bet for the survival of life this time around.