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Species count

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  23 May 2016 12:00 AM GMT

Even as scientists search for life elsewhere in the universe, the question can be asked whether we even have a rough estimate of the number of organisms on Earth. Countless species have gone extinct while others have kept evolving over millennia. Scientists believe that when it comes to finding, describing and classifying organisms, mankind is still in the Age of Discovery. With widespread concerns over climate change and human action taking a toll on biodiversity, the importance of a reliable total species count hardly needs be underlined. A recent study now says that there could be nearly one trillion species on Earth, of which 99.999 percent are yet to be discovered. Conducted by India University of US, the study compiled microbial, plant and animal datasets from government, academic and citizen science sources spread across 35,000 locations around the world. Scaling laws were applied to arrive at the fil estimate. The fact is, thousands of species are discovered each year but taxonomers who identify, catalogue and study them are a dying breed. Taxonomy enjoys little recognition and glamour; therefore funding is drying up in this field. Fewer people are entering the field while many top experts are retiring. The amateur taxonomer passiote about discovering new species has long given way to professiols, yet scientists now bemoan there are not enough trained people ‘to discover and document the tremendous biodiversity out there’.

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