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Scientists warn of ‘new mass extinction event’ as dead fish appear in lakes

A dangerous algal and bacterial phenomenon which kills wildlife is becoming increasingly common and could mean a repeat of a mass extinction event that occurred millions of years ago, a new report says.

Scary comparisons have been made between increases in algal and bacterial blooms in freshwater today and those of the 'Great Dying' 251 million years ago, a period of naturally occurring environmental change which killed off 90% of all species on earth.

This time round, however, it might be humans to blame, as CO2 emissions, deforestation and the greenhouse effect appear to be creating the perfect conditions for the microbial patterns to return.

These blooms are healthy in small doses and are found in bodies of water throughout the world, but become toxic when concentrated, creating "dead zones" in which larger species like fish struggle to survive.

Chris Mays, a palaeobotanist researcher at the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm who wrote the report, told Vice News that while it is still early days, these environmental changes show clear parallels:

"We are not there yet.. there was probably a six-fold increase in carbon dioxide during the EPE, but today carbon dioxide levels haven't yet doubled since pre-industrial times."

"But with the present steep increase in carbon dioxide, we're playing catch-up pretty well"

"And the chances of harmful microbial bloom events, along with many other deleterious facets of change (e.g., intense hurricanes, floods, wildfires), also rise… all the way up this steep carbon dioxide slope."

"The three main ingredients for this kind of toxic soup are accelerated greenhouse gas emissions, high temperatures, and abundant nutrients. Today, humans are providing all three of the ingredients in abundance."

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Last July, farm residents were left baffled after thousands of fish suddenly died overnight in a 15-acre lake in of a town in Missouri, United States.

They initially suspected a lightning strike, but later found that all the snakes and frogs had survived, suggesting another cause. The US Department of Conservation later said several other reports of dead fish had been raised in the area that same night.

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