Earth Day April 22nd 2013

Today, April 22nd is Earth Day, an annual event which raises awareness for the need to be concerned over our environment, climate change and the fragility of our planet.  This day is marked by schools, colleges, environmental groups, lobbyists, governments and other organisations who demonstrate their support for environmental protection.  We share our home with an estimated eight million other species (not including bacteria and other micro-organisms), many of these species are threatened with extinction and it has been stated that our planet is in the midst of another mass extinction event.

There always are extinctions, a background level, however, there is a growing body of evidence to support the theory that extinction rates are accelerating.  Conservative estimates suggest that between five and fifty species are becoming extinct every day.  Put simply, from today until the end of the year, perhaps more than 12,000 species will have become extinct, died out forever.  The rate of loss is very difficult to calculate, however, if we look at just two classes of animals – Aves (birds) and Mammalia (mammals), it has been estimated that today there are about 13,400 living species.  At least one hundred species of birds and mammals have become extinct over the last Century or so.  The rate of extinction seems to be escalating due to pressures placed on the planet by a number of factors such as the rapidly increasing human population, loss of habitat and global climate change.  The extinction rate is many thousands of times faster than the normal background rate attributed to natural selection.

Many biologists and other scientists have speculated that this period in Earth’s history – the Holocene Epoch, could make another mass extinction event – the “Sixth Extinction” to add to the previous “Big Five” – Ordovician, Devonian, Permian, Triassic and Cretaceous.

Everything Dinosaur is doing its bit, we have a programme of school visits this week.  We will be working with hundreds of primary aged school children exploring fossils and extinction events.  Along with the likes of cyanobacteria, our species is one of those “touchstone species” we refer to, as we are able to influence our environment and change the climate.  Events like Earth Day, a worldwide celebration of our planet’s diversity, helps to raise awareness of our pivotal role, one that we can all take part in, to help safeguard the rich and varied life on Earth that we share our home with.

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