Eminent Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson says that fully half of the planet’s higher life forms could be gone within 100 years, joining the dodo bird, sketched here, which has been extinct since the 17th century and whose fate was directly attributable to human activity. Photo: ThinkstockDear EarthTalk: I heard that species of flora and fauna are dying at a growing rate globally. How is this calculated and which types of species are dwindling faster?–– Colin Gooder, Franklin, NCResearchers believe that the rate of species loss currently underway is 100-1,000 times faster than what was normal (the so-called “background rate” of extinction) prior to human overpopulation and its negative environmental effects. But thanks to overhunting, deforestation, pollution, the spread of non-native species and now climate change, we are likely in the midst of the sixth mass extinction in the geologic history of the world. The previous mass extinction, 65 million years ago, wiped out the dinosaurs and other species; the previous one, 250 million years ago, killed off 90 percent of all species on the planet.While the current mass extinction might in reality not be that bad—only time will tell—eminent Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson predicts that the rate of species loss could top 10,000 times the background rate by 2030, and that fully half of the planet’s higher life forms could be gone within 100 years. This jibes with statistics from the non-profit International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)—keeper of the global “Red List” of endangered species—which currently considers 37.8 percent of the world’s already classified species to be threatened. Of course, this is far from the whole story, as biologists think that we have only classified 10 percent or less of the world’s total number of plant and animal species.Which types of species are being hit hardest? An analysis of IUCN statistics from 2008 found that of the world’s fauna (animals), invertebrates (animals without backbones, such as earthworms, shellfish and insects) were suffering the most, with 40.5 percent of those classified considered threatened. Next hardest hit were fish species, with 36.6 percent threatened, followed by reptiles at 30.5 percent and amphibians at 30.4 percent. Meanwhile, 20.8 percent of mammal species were threatened and 12.2 percent of birds.More shocking was the statistic that some 70.1 percent of plant species are at risk. However, a more recent (2010) study found that only 22 percent of the world’s classified plants are actually facing extinction. This finding has led analysts to question conservationists’ estimates in regard to animal species loss as well.In lieu of any direct way to measure the rate of species loss, conservationists have relied on reversing the so-called “species-area relationship,” whereby scientists tally the number of species in a given area and then estimate how quickly more show up or evolve as viable habitat increases (or decreases in the case of reversing the concept). But lately this method of tracking and predicting species losses has been criticized for generating overestimates. “The overestimates can be very substantial,” argues UCLA evolutionary biologist Stephen Hubbell, “…but we are not saying [extinction] does not exist.”However many species may be dying, it’s clear we are in the midst of another mass extinction, and if you believe 70 percent of biologists, unlike previous mass extinctions humanity is most likely the cause. Conservationists remain optimistic that we can marshal the resources to turn the tide—and we’ll need to if the planet is to remain habitable for our species, given our own dependencies on the world’s biodiversity.CONTACTS: E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation, www.eowilson.org; IUCN, www.iucn.org; “Species-area relationships always overestimate extinction rates from habitat loss,” www.nature.com/nature/journal/v473/n7347/full/nature09985.html.EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E – The Environmental Magazine (www.emagazine.com). Send questions to: [email protected] Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe; Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.
Boston’s IL runs six deep; the Dodgers’, three deep. The injuries to Rich Hill, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Clayton Kershaw weren’t as serious as feared. Kershaw only missed four starts, Ryu missed one, and Hill might conceivably be back by now if Julio Urías were pitching poorly in his place. Only one of the Dodgers’ position players (Martin) has needed the injured list to this point, and he didn’t even play for the Dodgers – or any playoff team, for that matter – last season. Martin’s replacement (Rocky Gale) has only gotten 10 plate appearances in a backup role. It’s the same core group as last year, and they’re off to a strong start. If the Dodgers were 9-14, with half an active roster on the IL, they would have a built-in excuse.Nor would they be alone. The New York Yankees have 13 players on their injured list right now. They’re 10-10, and their GM has been forced to defend his medical staff to the media. That’s a tough place to be, but you can understand how the Yankees got there. Long seasons can take a real physical toll. This time a year ago, the Dodgers’ DL ran five deep (Yimi Garcia, Tom Koehler, Rich Hill, Logan Forsythe, Justin Turner). They were 10-10, and things were about to get worse before they got better. What the Dodgers are doing right now wasn’t a given.It’s easy to ascribe the emotional quality of “hunger” to a team that just missed winning a championship. Players and coaches talk about it. Fans look for it. If you squint hard enough, maybe you can see it even when it isn’t there. I don’t know if the Dodgers’ “hunger” is enough to explain their success so far.I do know that the Milwaukee Brewers, who came closer to returning to the World Series than they have since losing to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1982, just played the Dodgers to an extremely competitive four-game series. Combine the seven head-to-head games between the Dodgers and Brewers this month, and each team scored 27 runs. The Dodgers won four games, the Brewers three. While it’s easy to marvel mouth agape at what the Red Sox are (or aren’t) doing, the Dodgers have to get through the National League first. The Brewers seem just as intent as the Dodgers on being there at the finish. Maybe we’re all more hungry in the absence of a hangover after all.Thanks for reading the Inside the Dodgers newsletter. To receive the newsletter in your email, sign up here. Stuck in the middle – The Dodgers are waiting for A.J. Pollock to snap out of a mediocre funk.Segundo generation – Miguel Vargas, the Dodgers’ next big Cuban prospect, talked about coming to the U.S. along with his father.Back with a vengeance – Connor Joe is 7-for-14 at Triple-A Oklahoma City since the Giants returned him to the Dodgers.Dingers – The 2019 season might feature an average of one more home run per game than the 2014 season. Editor’s note: The following story is from today’s Inside the Dodgers newsletter. To receive the newsletter in your email, sign up here.Dave Dombrowski, the general manager of the Boston Red Sox, sat down with a local sports-talk station last week to announce he isn’t blowing up his team’s roster. Ostensibly this has been a legitimate question for the defending World Series champs. The Red Sox have played 22 “real” games since last October. They’re 9-13.Including the playoffs, the Red Sox played three fewer games than the Dodgers did in 2018. On paper, the Dodgers (14-9) weren’t any less ripe for a World Series hangover than the Sox. They’re essentially the same teams as last year. Colton Brewer went to Boston, while A.J. Pollock, Russell Martin and Joe Kelly (from Boston) went to Los Angeles. So what’s going on?Justin Turner, Chris Taylor and Walker Buehler are off to slow starts for the Dodgers. For the Red Sox, the problems are more pervasive. Mookie Betts is hitting .244, Jackie Bradley Jr. is hitting .200 and World Series MVP Steve Pearce is hitting .138. Their starting pitchers have a collective 6.28 earned-run average. The injured list offers a more revealing story. Sitting in the chair just to stare, set to sprint. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error
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