World wildlife populations have fallen by 69% since 1970, says WWF report


Global wildlife populations have fallen by an average of 69% between 1970 and 2018, a dangerous decline resulting from climate change and other human activities, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) warned in a report on Thursday.

WWF tracked global changes in the abundance of wildlife on land, in the air and in water of nearly 32,000 populations of 5,230 vertebrate species between 1970 and 2018. It used a dataset known as Living Planet Index (LPI), which he has collected with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) since 1998 and updated every two years.

Written by 89 authors, the report sheds light on the planet’s “twin emergency” climate and biodiversity loss, the driving forces stemming directly from the degradation of land and marine systems, the overexploitation of animals and plants, and climate change. climatic.

Latin America and the Caribbean shows the largest regional decline in average population at 94%, with the report warning that the Amazon rainforest is on the verge of being non-functional.

Andrew Terry, director of conservation and policy at ZSL, said in a statement that the index “highlights how we have severed the very foundation of life… (and that) preventing further loss of biodiversity and restoring vital ecosystems must be at the top of global agendas to combat against the rise of climate, environmental and public health crises”.

Currently, 1 million plants and animals are threatened with extinction, with 1-2.5% of mammals, birds, reptiles, fish and amphibians already extinct, WWF reported.

But the numbers don’t mean that 69% of animals have been wiped off the planet since 1970. WWF International Director General Marco Lambertini told CNN that the LPI calculates the decline of a population of particular species as a percentage , then averages all the percentages to arrive at the overall figure.

“Normally when people think of endangered wildlife it’s all the iconic animals like elephants, tigers and pandas,” Lambertini told CNN. “Curiously, some of these animals started bouncing. Tigers are almost double their number and pandas have increased by about 20%.

Lesser-known animals are often those that are in decline. The Amazon River pink dolphin in the Mamirauá Sustainable Development Reserve in the Brazilian state of Amazonas, for example, saw its population decline by 65% ​​between 1994 and 2016, according to the report. The population of eastern lowland gorillas in Kahuzi-Biega National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo fell by 80% between 1994 and 2019, while the Australian sea lion lost 64% of its population between 1977 and 2019.

The index is based on pre-existing and published research on wild animals, which means there is a bias about which animals do LPI and which do not. All animals included are vertebrates – animals with spines – even though invertebrates, or spineless animals, outnumber them. Invertebrates aren’t included because they’re harder to research, Lambertini told CNN.

In 30 years of intervening to halt biodiversity loss, LPI continues to observe declines that WWF says act as early warning indicators of ecosystem health. The report stressed the importance of urgent action by governments, businesses and the public.

Researchers examine a jaguar in Brazil.

The planet has warmed by 1.2 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial times, which is one of the reasons why freshwater species have recorded the greatest overall decline, at 83%. In 2021, ocean temperatures were the hottest on record for the third consecutive year. Habitat loss and barriers to migration routes – for example, dams – are responsible for about half of the threats faced by fish.

Although the report finds the natural world close to a tipping point, it also reiterates that immediate transformative action can slow and even reverse these devastating results.

The COP15 meeting of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity is scheduled to take place in Montreal in December. Lambertini believes this will be an opportunity for leaders to lead the world by providing solutions to stop or “bounce back” on biodiversity loss.

Human-induced climate change causes forest fires, which destroy ecosystems and reduce biodiversity.

“It’s a famous saying, ‘you can’t manage what you can’t measure'”, so a manageable goal is necessary. The climate, for example, needs to achieve net zero carbon emissions, but zero net loss of biodiversity is not enough,” he said, due to the magnitude of the losses in a short period.

Instead, he explains that the global goal should be “net positive” on biodiversity, because nature can and does return for some species.

A global framework is being discussed to double nature protection and conservation by 2030. Currently, 15% of land is conserved and 8% of oceans, he said.

On a smaller scale, he said the public can do their part by following a simple rule: “Consume less and more sustainably” in an effort to reduce the pressure on nature.

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