Outdoors blog

Fish extinction greatly accelerated, study shows

Outdoors - Fish fossil from Stonerose Fossil Site in Republic, Wash.  (Rich Landers)
Outdoors - Fish fossil from Stonerose Fossil Site in Republic, Wash. (Rich Landers)

CLIMATE CHANGE -- Out of sight, out of mind.  Next thing you know, they're extinct.

And it's happening faster than ever to fish species, according to a recent study detailed in a Columbia Basin Bulletin report.

From 1900-2010, freshwater fish species in North America went extinct at a rate 877 times faster than the rate found in the fossil record, while estimates indicate the rate may double between now and 2050, the Bulletin reports.

This new information comes from a U.S. Geological Survey study to be published in the September issue of the journal BioScience.

In the fossil record, one freshwater fish species goes extinct every 3 million years, but North America lost 39 species and 18 subspecies between 1898 and 2006. Based on current trends in threatened and endangered fish species, researchers estimate that an additional 53-86 species of freshwater fish may be extinct by the year 2050.

Since the first assessment of extinct North American freshwater fishes in 1989, the number of extinct fishes increased by 25 percent.

"This study illustrates the value of placing current events into the context of deep geologic time, as rocks preserve an unbiased record of natural rates of processes before human activities began to alter the landscape, the atmosphere, the rivers, and oceans," said USGS Director Marcia McNutt.




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