Earth will take 10 MILLION years to recover from extinctions caused by global warming – the same time it took to repair ecosystems after dinosaurs were wiped out, experts say
- Scientists studied the recovery of microorganisms after major extinction events
- They looked at fossil records to map recovery rates of foram, a type of plankton
- Recovery takes millions of years of evolution and could apply to global warming
It could take millions of years for the Earth to recover from climate change if it is serious enough to wipe out mankind, say scientists.
It would take at least 10 million years for the planet to recover from such a catastrophic event, according to latest data.
The impact of modern day climate change has been compare to major extinction events such as the Great Dying that nearly killed all marine life and the extinction of dinosaurs.
Scientists who examined the fossil record say it is the evolutionary processes of microorganisms that limits the speed of recovery.
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It could take millions of years for the Earth to recover from climate change if it is serious enough to wipe out mankind, say scientists. According to latest data, it would take at least 10 million years for the planet to recover from such a catastrophic event
The millions of years it took for the Earth to recover from the extinction of the dinosaurs could offer fresh insight into the planet’s recovery from ongoing global warming, say scientists.
The asteroid impact that led to the extinction of dinosaurs is the only event in Earth’s history that caused global change faster than present day climate change.
This recovery period of habitats is present in the fossil records from the Great Dying that wiped out nearly all ocean life 252 million years ago, as well as the asteroid strike that killed the dinosaurs.
The researchers at the University of Bristol and University of Texas say that it also confirms the theory that after a major extinction event, ecosystems evolve in a way that takes millions of years for it to thrive again on Earth.
Dr Andrew Fraass from the University of Bristol and Dr Christopher Lowery at the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics (UTIG) who conducted the research, say that their study is the first to find evidence in the fossil records.
This is in contrast to an alternative theory that says it is environmental changes that is the limiting factor in allowing recovery of life forms on Earth.
A photomicrograph showing 10 species of foraminifera, a type of plankton which the researchers traced through fossil records to find out how they recovered after the Great Dying and the extinction of dinosaurs
The team followed the the recovery period of a tiny microorganism known as planktic foraminifera through fossils which dates back to the extinction of the dinosaurs over 60 million years ago.
The organisms are also known as foram, are aplenty in ocean sediments which meant the researchers could closely track them without any large gaps in time.
They discovered a high level of complexity, such as the development of new traits to create a new species.
This took place before they could fully evolve – a process that slowed down global recovery even when conditions allowed for it.
Their results suggest that while the earth was inhabitable much sooner after these large-scale disasters, evolution of organisms was the limiting factor that slowed the process down.
By looking at fossil records, Dr Chris Lowery (pictured) say it is the evolutionary processes of microorganisms that limits the speed of recovery as environmental changes on Earth allow organism populations and habitats to recover much earlier
This explained why species took millions of years to recover even though much of the planet was technically habitable relatively soon after the ‘Great Dying.’
The authors believe that the same recovery period of millions of years applies to all similar events including today’s global warming.
Mr Fraass said: ‘We’re hoping that examining the rest of the planktic foraminiferal record will give us insight into how climate shaped their evolution.
He added: ‘With the past, slower, changes in climate we have in the geological record, we should be able to tease out more details about how climate change might impact these important plankton.’
The recovery from past extinctions could offer a road map for what might come after the modern ongoing extinction, which is driven by climate change, habitat loss, invasive species and other factors.
The full report was published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.
WHAT WAS THE PERMIAN MASS EXTINCTION, KNOWN AS ‘THE GREAT DYING’?
Around 248 million years ago, the Permian period ended and the Triassic period started on Earth.
Marking the boundary between these two geologic eras is the Permian mass extinction, nicknamed ‘The Great Dying’.
This catastrophic event saw almost all life on Earth wiped out.
Scientists believe around 95 per cent of all marine life perished during the mass extinction, and less than a third of life on land survived the event.
In total, it is believed that 90 per cent of all life was wiped out.
All life on Earth today is descended from the roughly ten per cent of animals, plants and microbes that survived the Permian mass extinction.
Previously, it was believed a huge eruption blanketed the Earth in thick smog, blocking the sun’s rays from reaching the planet’s surface.
However, new findings suggest a massive volcanic eruption that ran for almost one million years released a huge reservoir of deadly chemicals into the atmosphere that stripped Earth of its ozone layer.
This eradicated the only protection Earth’s inhabitants had against the sun’s deadly UV rays.
This high-energy form of radiation can cause significant damage to living organisms, causing the death toll to skyrocket.