Scientists warn that the Earth is currently experiencing a sixth mass extinction, and each of the five previous incidents has had a profound impact on biodiversity, evolution, and species restoration.
Species are declining at an unprecedented rate, but this is nothing compared to the stunning losses experienced by coral reefs around the world due to rising acidity and ocean temperature.
By looking at past extinction events, including which species were most prone to extinction and how coral reductions led to extinction, we can get a better idea of what to expect in the coming years if climate change and the sixth extinction are not stopped.
Researchers led by the University of Leeds conducted a study to model two large-scale mass extinctions, the Late Triassic and the early Toarcian, during periods of global warming, in order to understand the role of climate in species loss.
The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
Later, the Triassic extinction (LTE) occurred 201 million years ago, and the early Toarcian (EToE) – 187 million years ago.
Previous studies have shown that warming periods that are associated with bursts of volcanic activity during these extinction events only contributed to the already existing extinction rates. However, the researchers found that this is not so.
“The events of the Late Triassic and early Toarcian extinction are associated with climate warming caused by mass volcanism,” the researchers write in their study.
The group used the global marine organisms database to model extinction selectivity across the Late Triassic and early Jurassic.
Researchers found that LTE and EToE each had their own unique patterns of selectivity and extinction rate, along with some similarities in which marine species were most vulnerable to climate change and extreme warming.
”Not only LTE and EToE events represent an increase in the extinction intensity above the corresponding background indicators of the Triassic and Jurassic period, but, more importantly, and contrary to previous statements, there are differences in the selectivity of extinction between the times of both background and mass extinction, as well as between the Triassic and Jurassic intervals in general, “the researchers conclude in their study.” It is also obvious that the background extinction was higher in the Late Triassic, before the onset of LTE hyperthermia, than at the beginning of the Jurassic, after the extinction. ”
Since these two mass extinctions are associated with increased greenhouse gas emissions and ocean temperature, the study provides the necessary basis for measuring future extinctions and warns of potential threats to climate change.