There has been enormous uncertainty amongst the scientific community on just how many species there are on Earth and how rapidly we are losing them through extinction. Given that taxonomists have described roughly 1.5 million species, estimates that there might be 30 million or even 100 million species on Earth might suggest to some that trying to name and describe all of these is a futile task. This is particularly true if, as others have suggested, we are in the midst of another mass extinction event.
To add to this there have been fears that the numbers of taxonomists around the world are declining. Our paper released in Science today – “Can we name Earth’s species before they go extinct?” – addresses each of these key issues. We suggest there are fewer species on Earth and that current extinction rates are much lower than previously thought.