Fifty millennia of catastrophic extinctions after human contact

David A. Burney*, Timothy F. Flannery

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

234 Citations (Scopus)


Debate continues to rage between enthusiasts for climate change versus humans as a cause of the catastrophic faunal extinctions that have occurred in the wake of human arrival in previously uninhabited regions of the world. A global pattern of human arrival to such landmasses, followed by faunal collapse and other ecological changes, appears without known exception. This strongly suggests to some investigators that a more interesting extinction debate lies within the realm of potential human-caused explanations and how climate might exacerbate human impacts. New observations emerging from refined dating techniques, paleoecology and modeling suggest that the megafaunal collapses of the Americas and Australia, as well as most prehistoric island biotic losses, trace to a variety of human impacts, including rapid overharvesting, biological invasions, habitat transformation and disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)395-401
Number of pages7
JournalTrends in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2005


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