We did it: Bramble Cay melomys, the Great Barrier Reef’s only endemic mammal species that lives on a tiny island in the eastern Torres Strait, has been wiped-out from its only known location. And all the details indicate that the major reason is Climate Change! According Natalie Waller and Luke Leung from the University of Queensland, the “root cause” of the extinction was sea-level rise. As a result of rising seas, the island was inundated on multiple occasions, they said, killing the animals and also destroying their habitat. It seems that the Anthropocene will be much more catastrophic for the biodiversity than we were thinking till now. Well, as the global inertia about Climate Change continues to go on, despite the decisions made in Paris, we can continue watching the catastrophe going on and learn something more for our planet. The irreversible human footprint in our planet is much older and much wider than we thought!
As a recent report revealed, there is no “natural world” anymore or, as the authors of the article “Ecological consequences of human niche construction: Examining long-term anthropogenic shaping of global species distributions” put it “Pristine’ landscapes simply do not exist and, in most cases, have not existed for millennia.” According the authors the Anthropocene, has started in the Late Pleistocene or Early Holocene, which mean that humans had already created substantial changes to Earth almost 14-15,000 years ago.
Humans have been altering the natural world for millennia, long before the 15th century dawn of the Age of Discovery, when European societies mastered long-distance ocean navigation and began to spread their cultures, animals and diseases to new continents. The result of these changes, accumulating over time, has been “the creation of extensively altered, highly cosmopolitan species assemblages on all landmasses,” the authors write in a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The article is very useful because it highlights the ways human interventions have changed the planet. Actually the article describes four phases of anthropogenic transformations, namely the Global Colonisation, the Emergence and Spread of Agriculture and Pastoralism, and finally the Urbanisation and Elaboration of Trade Networks. These broad historical patterns of change have implications not only for how we understand the past, but also for how we address the present and the future. This realization calls for archaeologists and other historical scientists to weigh in on key ecological and political debates. One of these controversies concerns the date for the start of the Anthropocene, the current, human-dominated phase of Earth’s geological sequence. Even the partial and coarse-grained historical datasets currently available suggest that widespread reshaping of global biodiversity probably began in the Late Pleistocene or Early Holocene, with attendant geomorphological, atmospheric, oceanic, and biogeochemical changes.
As one of the co-authors, Jon Erlandson (an archeologist, professor and director of the University of Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History) put it “People have been modifying their environments for tens of thousands of years…Humans have literally impacted everything from mammoths to microbes. Most people have no idea how heavily we’ve altered things — and for how long.”
Of course, we continue to create heavy, irreversible impacts, even when we have a very clear idea about what we do. This is 100% sure for the big oil companies that knew about serious climate change concerns and impacts from 1968! Who will stop the catastrophe? Any answer that does not include “us”, as a the major, collective, active contributor of human history is at least irrelevant…