Top Predator’ Humans Causing Catastrophic Ecosystem Shifts: Study

Never before has a single species become the top predator on land and sea, and human dominance over the natural environment has caused shifts in world ecosystems unprecedented in the last 500 million years, researchers said on Tuesday.

Human activity is leading to an international decline in the variety of plants and animals through extinction, as organisms not useful to human needs are killed off by ecosystem changes or over-exploitation, according to a new study.

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The biggest immediate losers will be large predators like tigers and lions while creatures domesticated by humans, including house cats, will thrive in the new world, said Jan Zalasiewicz, a professor of palaeobiology at the University of Leicester in central England, and co-author of the study.

Large extinctions or climate shifts are nothing new for the Earth, evidenced by the ice age and the disappearance of the dinosaurs, but current environmental changes represent something different, researchers said.

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"Some human-made changes have genuinely not been seen before on planet Earth," Zalasiewicz told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. The research was published in the academic journal 'The Anthropocene Review' on Monday.

Today's shifts -– including climate change, ocean acidification, and the loss of biodiversity -- have created a "new kind of nature", he said.