Study Finds Accelerating Rate of Species Mass Die-Offs Around the Globe

Posted Feb. 18, 2015

MP3 Interview with Samuel Fey, post-doctoral fellow in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department at Yale University, conducted by Melinda Tuhus


A new report published in the prestigious peer-reviewed journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, documents a likely future increase in mass mortality events; that is, the death in a short period of large numbers of a species, sometimes in the millions and on occasion wiping out an entire local species.

The study presents an analysis of 727 published mass mortality events from around the globe, affecting more than 2,400 animal populations. Researchers found the magnitude of MMEs has been intensifying for birds, fish, and marine invertebrates; unchanged for mammals; and decreasing for reptiles and amphibians.

The overall number of mortality events has increased by one per year over the past 70 years, and are associated with a rise in starvation, disease, bio-toxicity and other events triggered by multiple factors. It's unclear what role, if any, climate change has played in this increase.

Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus spoke with Samuel Fey, a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Yale University and a co-author on the report, along with researchers from the University of San Diego and UC-Berkeley. Here, he describes what prompted his team to research the issue of mass mortality and the impact of these events on the local ecology.

Read the Jan. 27, 2015 "Recent shifts in the occurrence, cause, and magnitude of animal mass mortality events," abstract or the full text version.

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