Holocene extinction

Other Names:
Sixth extinction event
Anthropocene extinction
Modern extirpation of species
Accelerating extinction of life
Modern ecological collapse

The Holocene period is associated with the rapid growth of humanity. Within the 11,000 years of the Holocene, humanity grew from hunter-gatherers to advancing agricultural cultures and finally into a powerful global community of international countries swarming with urban industrial cities and towns. This has brought about environmental changes, which correlate to the disappearance of species such as humanity's close primate relatives and the remaining megafauna. Many academics believe that human disruption of ecosystems, natural food chains and landscapes is so rapid and pervasive that the extent of wholesale species extinctions are yet to be documented.

During the time humanity has been present on planet Earth, the process of species mass  extinction has sped up from thousands of years to mere decades. For example, since the mid-18th century humans have produced 0.5 trillion tons of carbon emissions in the form of burning coal, oil and natural gas. This is substantially faster than the amount which would have been released from natural occurring phenomena. Concern grows as the human population, and planetary temperatures rise.

Because most scientists blame this mass extinction on humans, the term "Holocene extinction" is being replaced with the term "Anthropocene extinction".




The current rate of extinction of species is estimated at 100 to 1,000 times higher than natural background rates.  Extinctions of species have occurred on every land mass and ocean, with many famous examples within Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia, North and South America, and on smaller islands.

In the last 100 years, a staggering 543 vertebrate species were wiped from the face of the Earth. According to Anthony Barnosky, a paleobiologist at the University of California Berkeley, in the next 40 years 30% of all species will be eradicated. Within 300 more years, if human populations and Earth's temperatures continue to rise, 75% of all mammal species will be extinct. 

Problem Type:
C: Cross-sectoral problems
Date of last update
15.04.2022 – 10:30 CEST