While a common misconception that ‘we are heading towards another mass extinction’ is often attached to the extent climate change is impacting species on earth, in truth we started down that dark path of extinction a long time ago. Before man first messed with the climate, when we first picked up tools and became the most feared predators on Earth. As a species we have slowly caused the extinction of almost all the large mammals that ever walked this planet, with the loss of woolly mammoths, hunted for their meat, bone and skin, being a famous example from more recent times.
As humans have spread throughout the world, we have caused countless extinctions, the most notable of which is Australia’s
megafauna. Before humans discovered Australia, the island had massive mammals roaming around its rainforests, but 60,000 years ago, a new mammal arrived on the continent; Homo sapiens. 20,000 years later the entirety of the megafauna disappeared from fossil records, and with it the majority of the rainforest. Early humans didn’t target the megafauna, but we competed with them for prey and habitat. There was no competition – humans came and large mammals disappeared everywhere.
“everywhere we have stepped, we have caused extinction”
Everywhere we have stepped, we have caused extinction. As we grow ever larger in numbers, the amount of mammals becoming endangered is becoming frightening. Concerning Britain alone, within the last 500 years we have caused the local extinction of brown bears and wolfs. We are the only large mammals left on this lonely island. Elsewhere in the world large mammals are fighting to stay off the endangered list. To name a few of these wonderful creatures Tigers, Black Rhinos, Gorillas, Leopards, Wild Dogs, Bonobos, Chimpanzee, Elephants, and Whales, are all headed in the direction of the Tasmanian Devil, becoming officially extinct in 1936.
Evolution predicts survival of the fittest. It states that the species most adapted to the specific environment will survive, and has done for millions of years. Homo sapiens changed that by becoming the only species able to adapt the environment for their specific needs. As we continue to do so, we are messing with a complex network of ecosystems that, if they disappear, will almost certainly result in us following.
We need to look where we are stepping next. We cannot change what has happened, but we can look forward to the one place man has yet to fully claim as his own. The ocean. The mysterious ocean, that makes up over 70% of the precious planet, which holds up to 800,000 species and the last place on earth to contain numerous large mammals.
Unfortunately, these mammals seem to have a future similar to their distant cousins on land, extinction. Due to overfishing, pollution, killing for sport and tourist viewing, these magnificent animals also find themselves on the endangered list. Blue Whales, Beluga Whales, Gray Whales, Humpback Whales, Killer Whales, Bowhead Whales, Vaquita Porpoise, Baiji dolphin, Bearded Seal, Sea lions … the list goes on. The saddest part is that there is no recovery plan for many of these mammals, as we know so little about their mating and migration patterns. The ocean is different from land, it is not as well understood and as these mammals die off, they could potentially take many other species on land and sea with them.
The ocean contains many ecosystems, from the great open ocean currents to shallow water corals that are becoming endangered due to human activity. As sea temperatures and acidity increase we continue to endanger more and more ecosystems. Even the smallest rise in ocean temperature, will start to effect the population of corals. The corals will bleach; this slows their growth and means they are more likely to become diseased, leading to large-scale reef die-off. Another organism susceptible to temperature is krill. Krill, located at the bottom of the food chain, feed many ocean mammals, such as whale, seals, and penguins. As the Krill die off it will take these species with them.
“so what do we do? how can we save them?”
So what do we do? How can we save them? There are plans in place to reduce fishing and whale killing, as well as reducing emitted green house gases from the environment. Scientists everywhere are saying we need to do more, green energy is ready to go but it has come apparent that we are not committed enough to saving our planet from what seems like a barren and lifeless future. If we can stand together and convince our planets divided politicians to come together and realise how fragile and worth saving our Earth is then maybe we have a chance.