Study Connects Vertebrate Population Decline to Industrialization

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Researchers have found a connection between a decline in the vertebrate population of the world and the Industrial Revolution. As scientists learn more about this phenomenon, they find ways to protect native species as we move into Industry 4.0.

New research coming from The University of Texas Health Science Center (UTHealth) in Houston at the Chinese Academy of Science has found a correlation between rapid population decline among vertebrate species beginning around the end of the 19th century. The timeline matches up with the original Industrial Revolution, leading researchers to believe that the two events are causally related.

Effects of the Industrial Revolution on Vertebrate Species

According to Yun-Xin Fu, a professor at UTHealth, industrialization presents the best explanation for the rapid population decline during that period, meaning that human impact somehow caused the decline. The conclusion was reached using genetic data from 2,764 samples of vertebrate species, 600 of which are endangered.

#Industrialization best explains rapid #vertebrate population decline.Click To Tweet

The study used a population genetics approach to model when each threatened species first started to decline in population. The population of each endangered species dropped by as much as 25 percent every ten years, all starting 123 years ago.

The findings are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The Importance of Genetic Diversity

When populations decline rapidly, genetic diversity is negatively affected. Traditional conservation efforts typically focus on maintaining genetic diversity within a species, but according to Fu, preserving ecosystems and natural habitats should become more of a priority.

According to Fu, “However, preventing the rapid population decline by protecting the native habitats of species appears to be and should be more important because the overall difference of genetic diversity between threatened and non-threatened species is not at an alarming level.”

'Genetic diversity is important to preserving a species from a long-term standpoint,'Click To Tweet

The study may better inform current conservation efforts, putting more of an emphasis on the effects of humans on habitats and ecosystems, and that is exactly what Fu is hoping for.

For conservationists, this study may help bring new light to the environmental concerns related to saving endangered species.

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