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Supercomputer Predicts 6th Mass Extinction Will Wipe Out More Than 25 Percent Of All Life On Earth Soon

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There have been five mass extinctions in Earth’s history, and scientists have long been warning of a sixth one lurking in the future – but could we already be witnessing that next mass extinction? According to one of Europe’s most powerful supercomputers, the answer to that question is yes – and it’s about to wipe out a quarter of all life.

Australian And European Scientists Create New Prediction Tool

In December 2022, a group of scientists – led by Professor Corey Bradshaw of Flinders University and Dr. Giovanni Strona of the European Commission – created a first-of-its-kind tool to study the true consequences of climate change, changes in land use, and more.

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More specifically, they wanted to see how these climate scenarios and other factors affected extinction rates in species across the world – not just individually, but collectively (known as interconnected species loss). It’s something that has never been measured before, making this quite the breakthrough discovery.

Scientists Warn A Sixth Mass Extinction Event Has Already Started

What they found was alarming. The first bit of data revealed that more than 10% of all plants, animals, and living things will go extinct by the year 2050 – that’s only 26 years away! If their prediction is right, the world might look a whole lot different in 20 years.

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The second bit of data extended the prediction to the year 2100 – and it gets worse. Over the next 76 years, Earth could lose up to 27% of all species to extinction – including some of your favorite animals and plants.

Paints A Dire Picture Of What The Future Holds

That’s not all. The scientists also discovered that co-extinctions (when one species goes extinct because it relies on another species that goes extinct) will increase the total extinction rate of some of the world’s most vulnerable species by more than 184% by 2100.

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“The results demonstrate that interlinkages within food webs worsen biodiversity loss, to a predicted rate of up to 184% for the most susceptible species over the next 75 years,” Dr. Strona explained, according to an interview published by Flinders University.

How Does This New Supercomputer Work?

In order to make the prediction model work, the team of scientists needed to create a synthetic Earth that mimicked the one we see today. They added thousands of virtual species to their model Earth and north of 15,000 food webs to represent the biodiversity in our ecosystem today.

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The food webs play an essential role in this tool’s ability. Since the supercomputer knows what each species needs to survive, it can accurately predict the domino effect that follows the extinction of a certain species. This gives us a much more precise look at what’s to come.

Climate Scenarios And Other Factors Are Applied

With a synthetic Earth, the scientists were ready to apply a series of climate scenarios and other real-world tipping points to the equation – such as climate change and changes in land use. They started from the best-case scenario, but gradually transitioned to the worst-case scenario to get a full-picture view.

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As the climate changed, the species had several options – recolonize to a more suitable region, adapt (at least a little) to avoid extinction, succumb as a direct result of the global change, or succumb as a result of another extinction (co-extinction). Some species survived, but far too many of them didn’t.

Co-Extinctions Were Never Accounted For – Until Now

Previous prediction models and tools gave scientists a look at how certain global changes and real-world tipping points would directly impact extinction rates – but none of them accounted for co-extinctions. When you add that to the equation, things start looking a lot more eerie.

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“Compared with traditional approaches to predicting extinctions, our model provides a detailed insight into variation in patterns of species diversity responding to the interplay of climate, land use, and ecological interactions,” Professor Bradshaw of Flinders University explained in a 2022 interview.

Could We Be Nearing An End For Koalas And Elephants?

So, what does this new research mean for some of our favorite animal and plant species? Unfortunately, it could spell the end for some of them – including koala bears and elephants, two species that are already considered endangered. It’s a sad, but harsh reality.

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“Children born today who live into their 70s can expect to witness the disappearance of literally thousands of plant and animal species, from the tiny orchids and the smallest insects, to iconic animals such as the elephant and the koala … all in one human lifetime,” Bradshaw continued.

Scientists Warn That Climate Change Is Biggest Culprit

Scientists have been warning us of the daunting effects climate change is having on Earth for decades. Current estimates predict a global temperature increase of 2.4 Celsius (about 36 Fahrenheit) by 2050 – a number that increases to 4.4 Celsius (about 40 Fahrenheit) by 2100. If those numbers are anywhere close to being accurate, Earth will suffer.

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If you don’t believe us, then trust the supercomputer – because that was one of the exact climate scenarios that was fed through it. In fact, it’s the major contributing factor to the potential loss of nearly 27% of all living things over the next century.

Unfortunately, We Can’t Do Anything To Stop It

The results of the study are scary, but what’s even more concerning is that the scientists are saying there’s nothing we can do to stop the sixth mass extinction – it’s unavoidable in virtually all aspects. In fact, mass extinction doesn’t appear to be slowing down – it’s ramping up!

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This was evident the more the scientists ran their prediction model. It didn’t seem to matter how they cued the supercomputer up, the biodiversity loss occurred every single time – even though they ran some scenarios more than 100 times. The answer was always the same – extinction.

This Isn’t Our First Warning Of A Sixth Mass Extinction

Believe it or not, this isn’t the first we’re hearing of a sixth mass extinction. A group of biologists warned of this in January 2022 – though they looked at extinctions that happened over the past 700 years (not in the future). Still, the results were dooming.

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They concluded that Earth had lost between 7.5% and 13% of the known two million species between 1500 and 2021 – accounting for roughly 150,000 to 260,000 species. When you combine that biodiversity loss with the loss we’ll see in the future, it’s clear that a sixth mass extinction is underway. Let’s recap how the other ones turned out.

Mass Extinction 1: End Ordovician

The first of the ‘Big Five’ mass extinctions happened at the end of the Ordovician period – roughly 444 million years ago – and more than 86% of all species on Earth went extinct. It’s the second-worst mass extinction in terms of the percentage of species lost.

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The ‘End Ordovician’ extinction was caused by changes in ocean chemistry and climate – a result of large sea-level swings and the tectonic uplift of the Appalachian mountains. It took another 84 million years before the next mass extinction – the Late Devonian extinction.

Mass Extinction 2: Late Devonian

The second mass extinction in Earth’s history occurred towards the end of the Devonian period – which was roughly 360 million years ago. Earth ended up losing more than 75% (that’s 3 of every 4) of its species – the lowest biodiversity loss among the ‘Big Five’ extinctions.

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There are a lot of theories on what caused the Late Devonian extinction, but most scientists agree that it had something to do with severe global cooling and oceanic volcanism – which resulted in sea level changes and ocean anoxia. Then again, other theories suggest a possible comet strike.

Mass Extinction 3: End Permian

The third mass extinction – the End Permian extinction – occurred 250 million years ago and resulted in more than 96% of biodiversity loss. With only 4% of all species remaining, the End Permian extinction is hands-down the worst extinction in Earth’s history.

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The primary cause of this extinction was global warming due to a series of intense and violent volcanic eruptions in Siberia. Ocean and land chemistry started changing as a result of the rise in carbon dioxide and sulfur – causing an influx of acid rain and ocean acidification.

Mass Extinction 4: End Triassic

Moving on to the fourth mass extinction – the End Triassic extinction occurred roughly 200 million years ago and wiped out more than 80% of all living species. It’s the third-worst extinction in Earth’s history, behind the End Ordovician and End Permian extinctions.

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Many people think this is the period where dinosaurs were killed off, but that’s the next extinction. This extinction was likely caused by an increase in volcanic activity in what is now the Atlantic Ocean – ultimately resulting in global warming and changes in oceanic composition.

Mass Extinction 5: End Cretaceous

That brings us to the most recent mass extinction – not including the one we’re in right now, of course. The End Cretaceous extinction is the most popular of the ‘Big Five,’ occurring nearly 65 million years ago and destroying more than 76% of all life on Earth.

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It all started with tectonic uplifting and violent volcanic activity, but then the asteroid hit Earth – causing global cooling at a fast rate. This is the event that wiped out the dinosaurs. Winged pterosaurs, aquatic plesiosaurs, and mosasaurs were also killed off in this event.

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Richard Brennhan

Written by Richard Brennhan

Richard Brennhan is a dynamic writer whose life journey has been marked by an unwavering dedication to crafting viral and impactful content. Born with an innate passion for storytelling and an insatiable curiosity, Richard has consistently pushed the boundaries of creativity and successfully harnessed the power of the written word to captivate global audiences.

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