Rapid population decline among vertebrates began at the end of the 19th century when industrialisation was at its peak, leading to profound change in global living ecosystems, says a study.
“Industrialisation is the most natural explanation as to why we have rapid population decline in that period of time. It has to be somehow caused by human impact,” said Yun-Xin Fu, Professor at University of Texas School of Public Health at Houston, US.
The current rate of species extinction is approximately 1,000 times the background rate of extinction and is attributable to human impact, ecological and demographic fluctuations, and inbreeding due to small population sizes.
The researchers believe that the rate and the initiation date of rapid population decline can provide important clues about the driving forces of population decline in threatened species, but they are generally unknown
So the team reviewed thousands of scientific articles about the genetic diversity of vertebrate species.
Their efforts yielded genetic data from 2,764 vertebrate species, 600 of which are endangered.
The researchers used a population genetics approach to model when each threatened species began to rapidly decline in population size.
On average, the population size of endangered species declined by about 25 percent every 10 years starting 123 years ago, said the study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.