Humans have a ‘huge effect’ on Earth’s animal death rate: study

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Humans have survived hundreds of thousands of years thanks to our advanced intelligence — and our steadfast capacity for cruelty.

We have had a “disproportionately huge effect” on animal populations, a new study published in the journal Global Ecology and Biogeography asserts.

Scientists from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture report that more than a quarter of all deaths among land vertebrate species on Earth are a direct result of human activity.

Researchers analyzed 42,755 deaths of various mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians in North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Oceania, all of which had been “tagged” as part of other studies between 1970 and 2018. They found that 28 percent of losses were caused by humans.

“We all know humans can have a substantial effect on wildlife,” says study co-author and SUNY College ESF professor Jerrold L. Belant in a statement. “That we are only one among over 35,000 species of terrestrial vertebrates worldwide yet responsible for more than one-fourth of their deaths provides perspective on how large our effect actually is.”

Belant points out that their study only covered “direct causes,” and does not factor other human activity such as “urban growth and other land use changes that reduce habitat.” Larger species and adult animals, the scientists found, were also more likely to be killed at the hands of humans.

Belant and his colleagues warn that humans may be overstepping on the evolutionary process, pointing out the widespread extinctions which have come to define this era of human existence.

Says Belant. “Consider deforestation rates and the bleaching of coral reefs from increased sea temperatures. This is one more piece of evidence to add to the list, one more example of the effect we’re having on the planet.”

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