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One contemporary extinction rate estimate uses the extinctions in the written record since the year 1500. For birds alone this method yields an estimate of 26 E/MSY. However, this value may be underestimated for three reasons. First, many species would not have been described until much later in the time period, so their loss would have gone unnoticed. Second, the number of recently extinct species is increasing because extinct species now are being described from skeletal remains. And third, some species are probably already extinct even though conservationists are reluctant to name them as such. Taking these factors into account raises the estimated extinction rate closer to 100 E/MSY. The predicted rate by the end of the century is 1500 E/MSY.

A second approach to estimating present-time extinction rates is to correlate species loss with habitat loss by measuring forest-area loss and understanding species-area relationships. The species-area relationship    is the rate at which new species are seen when the area surveyed is increased. Studies have shown that the number of species present increases as the size of the island increases. This phenomenon has also been shown to hold true in other habitats as well. Turning this relationship around, if the habitat area is reduced, the number of species living there will also decline. Estimates of extinction rates based on habitat loss and species-area relationships have suggested that with about 90 percent habitat loss an expected 50 percent of species would become extinct. Species-area estimates have led to species extinction rate calculations of about 1000 E/MSY and higher. In general, actual observations do not show this amount of loss and suggestions have been made that there is a delay in extinction. Recent work has also called into question the applicability of the species-area relationship when estimating the loss of species. This work argues that the species-area relationship leads to an overestimate of extinction rates. A better relationship to use may be the endemics-area relationship. Using this method would bring estimates down to around 500 E/MSY in the coming century. Note that this value is still 500 times the background rate.

 A graph plots the number of species present versus area in meters squared. The number of species present increases as a power function, such that the slope of the curve increases sharply at first, then more gradually as area increases.
Studies have shown that the number of species present increases with the size of the habitat. (credit: modification of work by Adam B. Smith)

Check out this interactive exploration of endangered and extinct species, their ecosystems, and the causes of the endangerment or extinction.

Section summary

Biodiversity exists at multiple levels of organization and is measured in different ways depending on the goals of those taking the measurements. These measurements include numbers of species, genetic diversity, chemical diversity, and ecosystem diversity. The number of described species is estimated to be 1.5 million with about 17,000 new species being described each year. Estimates for the total number of species on Earth vary but are on the order of 10 million. Biodiversity is negatively correlated with latitude for most taxa, meaning that biodiversity is higher in the tropics. The mechanism for this pattern is not known with certainty, but several plausible hypotheses have been advanced.

Five mass extinctions with losses of more than 50 percent of extant species are observable in the fossil record. Biodiversity recovery times after mass extinctions vary, but have been up to 30 million years. Recent extinctions are recorded in written history and are the basis for one method of estimating contemporary extinction rates. The other method uses measures of habitat loss and species-area relationships. Estimates of contemporary extinction rates vary, but some rates are as high as 500 times the background rate, as determined from the fossil record, and are predicted to rise.

Art connections

[link] Scientists measured the relative abundance of fern spores above and below the K-Pg boundary in this rock sample. Which of the following statements most likely represents their findings?

  1. An abundance of fern spores from several species was found below the K-Pg boundary, but none was found above.
  2. An abundance of fern spores from several species was found above the K-Pg boundary, but none was found below.
  3. An abundance of fern spores was found both above and below the K-Pg boundary, but only one species was found below the boundary , and many species were found above the boundary.
  4. Many species of fern spores were found both above and below the boundary, but the total number of spores was greater below the boundary.

[link] A. An abundance of fern spores from several species was found below the K-Pg boundary, but none was found above.

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Questions & Answers

guy I need the answer of this question what occurs during photosynthesis
REAL Reply
Photosynthesis is the process that plants use to convert light into food. During this process, plants create carbohydrates starting with only carbon dioxide and water. Sunlight provides the energy that makes photosynthesis possible.
Stanley
@Stanley,that's how I could as well put it
Evans
what are different between genotype and phenotype
Martha Reply
what is light microscope and electronic microscope
Martha
what occurs during photosynthesis
Martha
what are importance of biology
Martha
what is the meaning of computer science
Martha
what is ecology
Adeyemo Reply
what is zoology
Adeyemo
zoology branch of biology that study animals
Moses
a branch of biology which deals with the study of animals
Anita
A plant is a living thing that grows in the earth and has a stem, leaves, and roots
Bello Reply
what is a plant
dalitso Reply
A plant is a living thing that grows in the earth and has a stem, leaves, and roots
Bello
a plant is an is a living thing that is classified under autothrops because it makes its own food through the process of photosynthesis .
Joanne
a plant is also known as autotropic category and a plant have root & stem
Anita
what is plant
Odion Reply
Plants are autotrophic
Baramox
Then animal are heterotrophic
Iyiola
what are organisms
Godfred Reply
Living structures
Aryavarta
living and non living which charectrised by different properties
Anita
organisms living and nonliving components of the environment with distinct xtics
Tony
the diagram below show how the blood of a human embryo flows close to the mothers blood in the placenta . which substances are represent at x in higher concentrations than at y
Joyce Reply
what is ecology
Odion Reply
what is cell
Odion
what is cell
Odion
Is the basic unit of life
Agatha
what's biology
Okebe
biology is the study of life
Ali
What is a cell
Awal Reply
What are tissues
Awal
A cell is the smallest unit of living organisms.
hamidat
Tissues are group of similar cells performing a particular function.
hamidat
how to pronounce the word cyanobacteria
siva Reply
Cyano then bacteria. look that "cyano" is just like "ciyano".
hamidat
explain the term transpiration pull
Tank Reply
water is mainly " pulled" through the plant and that the driving force for this process is transpiration from the leaves .This is also referred to as the cohesion- tension -transpiration pull model transport.
Vanessa
explain TRANSIOCATION and GUTATION
Tank
what Is corona
INGIEBE Reply
My brother go and ask GOOGLE😷😷😷
hamidat
Google it for the right answer. Corona is a virus which causes Novel Covid-19 disease that has been declared by WHO as a global or world pandemic.
Katlholo
Why is it called Covid-19?
Katlholo
jjwhat is. condinative system
Odion
joy
Odion
condinative system is the system that harmonize all the. different. part. of. the. body and make. them function as a. specific unit
Odion
Describe the process of protein sythesis?
Kizito Reply
Ribosomes are responsible for protein synthesis in animals.
hamidat
What is a ploidy level
Francis Reply
Ploidy refers to the number of chromosomes. We have 23 pairs of chromosomes in somatic cells. Sex cells are haploid thus 23 chromosomes vs. 46 Chromosomes.
Eric
Evolution is evolvement according to one's environment. Let's use humidity as an example. A person from a very cold environment would not be used to hot humid weather. But over time their body would slowly, slowly adapt.
Eric
Give me (3) types of biodiversity
Jay
Hi guys 🇧🇪
Namutebi
hello boy
Tedi
hi
INGIEBE
yes
amani

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Source:  OpenStax, Biology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 29, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11448/1.10
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