Extinction starts to have an effect on ecosystems long before a species fully disappears. A new paper calls this “biological annihilation” — the effect that localized extinction has on a region when certain species, such as lions, become extirpated from their former habitats. The paper argues we should pay more attention to species even if they are considered “of low concern,” because many of them are actually in decline. Although these species are not currently considered threatened with extinction, their “population decay” causes cascading effects on the abundance of other local species — which, the paper warns, will eventually result in yet more extinctions.

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John R. Platt

is the editor of The Revelator. An award-winning environmental journalist, his work has appeared in Scientific American, Audubon, Motherboard, and numerous other magazines and publications. His “Extinction Countdown” column has run continuously since 2004 and has covered news and science related to more than 1,000 endangered species. John lives on the outskirts of Portland, Ore., where he finds himself surrounded by animals and cartoonists.

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  • Jeff

    We’re part of the web of life. If you harm any part of the web, you harm the entire thing. The issue is the type and amount of harm. I think that a proper attitude and rule would be that humans may not directly or indirectly kill anything they don’t eat, and eating animals should be limited to prey animals.

    Humans are killing the planet no matter how you look at it, as long as you look honestly and objectively. We need to greatly lower both our population and our consumption. It’s getting to the point where there is no room for anything but humans. This is both totally immoral and unsustainable.