New research reveals the extinction of plant or animal species from extreme environmental change increases the risk of an ‘extinction domino effect’ that could annihilate all life on Earth.
This would be the worst-case scenario of what scientists call ‘co-extinctions’, where an organism dies out because it depends on another doomed species, with the findings published today in the journal Scientific Reports.
Think of a plant’s flower pollinated by only one species of bee — if the bee becomes extinct, so too will the plant eventually.
“Even the most resilient species will inevitably fall victim to the synergies among extinction drivers as extreme stresses drive ecosystems to collapse.” says lead author Dr Giovanni Strona of the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre based in Ispra in northern Italy.
Researchers from Italy and Australia simulated 2,000 ‘virtual earths’ linking animal and plant species. Using sophisticated modelling, they subjected the virtual earths to catastrophic environmental changes that ultimately annihilated all life.