Accelerating Extinctions

Triggering a domino effect of biodiversity loss

The International Day for Biological Diversity was founded to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues. While attention for the extinctions of individual species is growing, the most recent Interconnected Disaster Risks report by United Nations University shed more light on “co-extinctions”: the chain reaction occurring when the extinction of one species affects another.

Through intense human activities, such as land-use change, overexploitation, climate change, pollution and the introduction of invasive species, we are causing an extinction acceleration that is at least tens to hundreds of times faster than the natural process of extinctions. In the last 100 years, over 400 vertebrate species were lost, for example. The report therefore includes accelerated extinctions among its six interconnected “risk tipping points”. Such points are reached when the systems that humanity relies on cannot buffer risks and stop functioning like expected, mainly caused by human actions.