We are in the midst of a global extinction crisis. Biodiversity is in decline as species after species disappear. Some estimates predict that up to 50% of species will be committed to extinction by 2050. Other estimates claim the current rate of extinction may be 10,000 times the background rate. Many ecologists and conservationists have declared the current species decline the sixth great mass extinction.
A recent paper published in the journal Nature argues that our current estimates of species loss are based on a flawed model and tend to overestimate the magnitude of species decline. The paper has received plenty of attention, and has been heavily criticized by ecologists and conservation biologists. The paper is wrong, but it is wrong for the right reasons, and the criticisms it has garnered point to a gaping hole in our understanding of population dynamics.