No bells tolled when the last Catarina pupfish on Earth died. Newspapers didn’t carry the story when the Christmas Island pipistrelle vanished forever.
Two vertebrate species go extinct every year on average, but few people notice, perhaps because the rate seems relatively slow – not a clear and present threat to the natural systems we depend on. This view overlooks trends of extreme decline in animal populations, which tell a more dire story with cascading consequences, according to a new study that provides the first global evaluation of these population trends. “This is the case of a biological annihilation occurring globally, even if the species these populations belong to are still present somewhere on Earth,” said co-author Rodolfo Dirzo, a professor of biology.