Mzansi Afrika

From Johannesburg South Africa, a window on the world

Monday, March 22, 2004

Mass extinction or media hype?

Fears that Earth is undergoing a mass species wipe-out similar to that which destroyed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago have gained new ground with the publication of two British studies. They found that the rate of loss of insect and plant species across Britain was running at several times what would be considered normal, and had been doing so for a long time. "The world is experiencing a new mass extinction," Andrew Sugden of Science International magazine told a news conference in London. "These studies are milestones in global change research." The studies, funded largely by Britain's Natural Environment Research Council, are published in the latest issue of the journal Science. Earth has undergone five mass extinctions in the last 600 million years, and scientists have speculated for some time that it is in the throes of a sixth.