AN extreme drop in oxygen could wipe out most life on Earth, according to a scientific study.
The prediction is based on past oxidation events and the idea that habitable planets don’t keep atmospheric oxygen forever.
Science Alert highlighted the study which was published in the journal Nature back in 2021.
The researchers wrote: “The lifespan of oxygen-based biosignatures in Earth’s atmosphere remains uncertain, particularly for the distant future.
“Here we use a combined biogeochemistry and climate model to examine the likely timescale of oxygen-rich atmospheric conditions on Earth.”
There is no need to panic though as the event isn’t predicted to happen for another billion years.
The reason we have an oxygen-rich atmosphere is thought to be related to the Great Oxidation Event which occurred 2.4 billion years ago.
Researchers think Earth’s oxygen levels could drop to how they were before this event happened.
As Science Alert notes, humans would need to work out a way to get off the planet within the next billion years if the species were to survive.
The drop in oxygen wouldn’t just be bad for humans but most life on Earth would be wiped out.
Scientists used models of Earth’s atmosphere to support their prediction.
They explained: “The model projects that a deoxygenation of the atmosphere, with atmospheric O2 dropping sharply to levels reminiscent of the Archaean Earth.”
The Archaean period in Earth’s history is said to have occurred around 4–2.5 billion years ago.
It was a time when rocks and continental plates began to form.
The researchers say this event could happen “before the extensive loss of surface water from the atmosphere.”
It’s thought radiation from the Sun could result in the evaporation of oceans within two billion years, which would also spell disaster for life on Earth.