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Looking back to see forward: when animals die out


Looking back to see forward: when animals die out

SA study looks at mass extinction on land and sea, and answers questions that have plagued scientists

Senior science reporter

With so many species under threat because of human activity, scientists have taken a long view of extinction, trying to figure out mass extinction events in the past – and SA is proving a real treasure trove of information. 

Two hundred years ago, there were fewer than a billion people on Earth. Today, the number is enough to make one dizzy: 7.6 billion and counting. According to the United Nations, unless we take action, there is likely to be 30% more of us by 2050 and 11 billion people by 2100.

“Every one of us places demands upon our planet – the very demands that have caused the changes that threaten us and the natural world we depend on,” according to global charity Population Matters. “Human beings have existed for just 200,000 years, yet our impact on the planet is so great that scientists around the world are calling for our period in the Earth’s history to be named the ‘Anthropocene’ – the age of humans.”..

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