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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

the cell wall is targeted
Rebel Reply
what is rispiration
Liaquat Reply
transpiration in organism
Liaquat
what is biology mean?
Nickey Reply
bio means life logy means study . study about life . physiology. morphology . anatomy and others organisms related topics is termed as biology
Darshan
Biology is the study life. that the study about living organism
SIRAJO
cell
Gachriku
what is oxidation?
Rose Reply
 the state or result of being oxidized
Emmanuel
hahahaha thanks, but my teachers requires a thorough meaning about that
Rose
Is the process of oxidizing ,the addition of oxygen to a compound with a loss of electrons, always accompanied by reduction
Korletey
loss of electron....
Anwar
thank you. 😊
Rose
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Rose
thank you. 😊
Rose
what is oxidized
Oyebanji
the process or result of oxidizing or being oxidized.
Jersey
my pleasure
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Google itttt.....if need explanation
Anwar
to rose...
Anwar
oxidation is the removal of oxygen addition of hydrogen
SIRAJO
what is genetic
Chibawa Reply
genetic is the study of inheritance and variation
Elizon
Nice one genetic is the scientific study of heredity and variation in living organism
SIRAJO
Genetic : generally is the scientific study of heredity and variation in living thing .
Olorukooba
name the enzymes that i found in the saliva
Valuables Reply
salivary amylase
Isaac
draw a bacterium cell and label
Kadijah Reply
What are the osmoregulatory functions of the kidney?
bisi Reply
filter
Meenu
What is ecology
Hebert Reply
it is the study of interaction of living organisms with their environment.
Doris
what is cell
Etama Reply
cell is the basic unit of life
Asiatou
cell is the basic structural and functional unit of an living organism
Darshan
a cell is the smallest and most basic unit of a living thing
John
cell is the basic unit of life. we are made up of 60,000 billions of cells.Each cell carry out a specific function in the body.
Pallavi
A cell is the smallest basic functioning unit of life.
Ali
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Tiania Reply
What is hypotonic
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what is hypotonic
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Hypotonic means weak solution
Ali
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Obeng Reply
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long sightedness is said to be like someone that can see far object clearly why short sightedness is someone that only can see near obect
SHEDRACK
why drinking excess alcohol causes thirst and dehydration
uwikuzo Reply
Can we chat about nutrition please?
Elia
yes
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sure
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BC it contribute to the source of life
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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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