Our species caused 322 animal extinctions over the past 500 years, with two-thirds of those occurring in the last two centuries, according to a paper published in a special issue of the journal Science this week.
Many animals are threatened with human-caused extinction now, with researchers expressing particular concern over amphibian and invertebrate (creatures without a backbone) losses. Numbers of the latter group have nearly halved as our population doubled in size over the past 35 years.
Ecologists, zoologists and other scientists believe that, without urgent steps to stem the losses, we are facing global scale tipping points from which we may never look back or recover.
"Indeed, if current rates (of human population growth) were to continue unchecked, population size would be, by 2100, about 27 billion persons -- clearly an unthinkable and unsustainable option," co-author Rodolfo Dirzo, professor of environmental sciences at Stanford University, told Discovery News.
Dirzo and his colleagues call for "decreasing the per capita human footprint," by developing and implementing carbon-neutral technologies, producing food and goods more efficiently, consuming less and wasting less.