Wildlife populations worldwide have declined at a “staggering” rate by 68% in just a half century.
Wildlife populations worldwide have declined at a “staggering” rate by 68% in just a half century, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature.
In its latest Living Planet report, in which the WWF surveys global wildlife populations, the leading environmentalist group says that there was a “catastrophic decline” between 1970 and 2016 owing to human activities, including overfishing, deforestation and the rampant poaching of endangered species.
On average there have been a 68% decline in more than 20,000 populations of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish since 1970, according to WWF’s researchers. In some regions the rate of decline has been far greater than elsewhere. In Central and South America, for instance, vertebrate species declined by a shocking 94% during the same period.
“[I]n the last 50 years our world has been transformed by an explosion in global trade, consumption and human population growth, as well as an enormous move towards urbanisation,” the report notes. “Until 1970, humanity’s Ecological Footprint was smaller than the Earth’s rate of regeneration. To feed and fuel our 21st century lifestyles, we are overusing the Earth’s biocapacity by at least 56%.”
Alarmingly, even numerous species frequently overlooked in conservation are losing out to large-scale habitat loss and other manmade activities. Since the year 2000 alone 1.9 million square kilometers of wildlife-rich land has been lost, including tropical forests that have been hotspots of biodiversity. As a result, an estimated 1 million species are facing the threat of extinction.
“Tigers, pandas and polar bears are well-known species in the story of biodiversity decline, but what of the millions of tiny, or as-yet-undiscovered, species that are also under threat? What is happening to the life in our soils, or in plant and insect diversity? All of these provide fundamental support for life on Earth and are showing signs of stress,” WWF wonders in the report.
The report makes for bleak reading, yet there is still time to mend our ways and preserve what is left of the planet’s biodiversity, WWF experts stress.
“We still have a chance to put things right. It’s time for the world to agree a New Deal for Nature and People, committing to stop and reverse the loss of nature by the end of this decade and build a carbon-neutral and nature-positive economy and society,” says Marco Lambertini, director-general of WWF International.
“This is our best safeguard for human health and livelihoods in the long term, and to ensure a safe future for our children and children’s children,” he adds.
Sir David Attenborough, the famed naturalist and television presented, echoes that sentiment. Protecting wildlife habitats “will require systemic shifts in how we produce food, create energy, manage our oceans and use materials,” Attenborough told the BBC.
“But above all it will require a change in perspective,” he said. “A change from viewing nature as something that’s optional or ‘nice to have’ to the single greatest ally we have in restoring balance to our world.”