Nature is in "free fall" due to human activity, according to the world's most comprehensive survey of the health of our planet. Wildlife populations around the world have declined by more than two-thirds in less than 50 years.
From elephants in Central Africa to leatherback turtles in Costa Rica to arctic skuas in Orkney and partridges in the UK, populations of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish have fallen by an average of 68 percent globally since 1970, Index (LPI) 2020 shows.
Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF, said this severe decline in wild species populations was "an indicator that nature is dissolving and our planet is showing red warning signs of a system failure".
The destruction of wild animal habitats by human actions is also leading to a surge in global pandemics like Covid-19 as these activities bring human populations closer to wildlife, scientists claim.
WWF has called for national laws to prevent food and other product supply chains from driving deforestation and wilderness destruction, and to prevent people from switching from meat and dairy products to more plant-based diets.
Some of the report's most alarming findings are:
- Wildlife populations in Latin America and the Caribbean have declined 94 percent – the largest decline in the world.
- African elephants declined 98 percent between 1985 and 2010 due to increased poaching in the early 1980s.
- In the UK, partridge populations have declined by 85 percent and Orkney's Arctic Skua populations have decreased by 62 percent.
- The population of the eastern lowland gorillas in Kahuzi-Biega National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo declined by 87 percent between 1994 and 2015, mainly due to illegal hunting.
- Freshwater species populations have declined by 84 percent, including the critically endangered Chinese sturgeon in the Yangtze by 97 percent.
This is an image of an African elephant with a young calf in Amboseli National Park Kenya. The world's wildlife population has declined by more than two-thirds in less than 50 years, according to a new report
This WWF image shows an area of illegal deforestation in the indigenous Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau area in Rondonia. WWF, a conservation charity, said nature is in "free fall" due to human activities, mostly intensive farming and habitat destruction like forests to produce food, according to its latest Living Planet report
This picture shows a male silverback gorilla in the eastern lowlands in Parc National du Kahuzi-Biega in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This is one of thousands of species populations tracked by the WWF team
Using data from 20,811 populations of 4,392 species, the 2020 global Living Planet Index shows an average decrease in monitored populations of 68 percent between 1970 and 2016
The report's authors tracked the fates of nearly 21,000 populations of over 4,000 vertebrate species to create the new index.
The 68 percent figure reflects the average proportional change in population size – not the number of individual animals lost.
LIVING PLANET INDEX: WINNERS AND LOSERS OF SPECIES
Species in decline:
- The Irrawady dolphin declined by around 44 percent between 1997 and 2008.
- The UK partridge declined 85 percent between 1970 and 2004.
- The Arctic Skua in the Orkney Islands saw a 62 percent decline between 1982 and 2010.
- The population of Grauer's gorilla in Kahuzi-Biega National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo fell by an estimated 87 percent between 1994 and 2015.
- The African elephant populations in Tanzania's Selous Mikumi ecosystem have declined by 86 percent since 1976.
- African elephants declined 98 percent between 1985 and 2010 due to increased poaching in the early 1980s.
- The forest elephant populations in Ghana have declined by about 60 percent.
- Leather-backed turtles have decreased by 84 percent on Tortuguero Beach, Costa Rica.
Species on the rise:
- Between 2008 and 2014, the tiger population in Nepal increased by 64 percent due to conservation efforts.
- Loggerhead turtle populations in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park in South Africa increased 154 percent between 1973 and 2009.
- The blacktail reef shark increased relatively frequently by over 360 percent between 2004 and 2016.
- The leopard shark population in North America increased by nearly 750 percent from 1995 to 2004 following the ban on gillnet fishing.
SOURCE: WWF LPI
The biggest drivers of wildlife loss are changes in land, sea and water use due to human activities such as unsustainable agriculture, logging and development.
Wildlife is also exposed to over-exploitation, such as overfishing, threats from invasive species and diseases, pollution and, increasingly, climate change.
Lambertini said the increasing destruction of nature by humanity is having "catastrophic effects" on wildlife populations and human health.
"From the fish in our oceans and rivers to bees, which play a vital role in our agricultural production, wildlife decline has a direct impact on the diet, food security and livelihoods of billions of people," he said.
WWF urgently calls for measures to reverse the trend by 2030, but warns against it will not be easy, as bold methods of preservation and measures to improve the sustainability of human food will be required.
Lambertini said it is more important now than ever to take coordinated global action to stop and reverse the loss of biodiversity and wildlife populations within a decade.
These measures would not only support the wildlife but also "protect our future health and livelihood". He added, "Our own survival increasingly depends on it."
British television presenter and naturalist Sir David Attenborough said the Anthropocene – the geological age when human activity came to the fore – could be the moment when we achieve equilibrium with the natural world and become stewards of our planet.
"This requires systematic changes in the way we produce food, generate energy, manage our oceans and use materials," he said.
“Above all, however, it will require a change of perspective. A shift from viewing nature as something optional or "beautiful to have" to being the greatest ally we have in restoring balance to our world. "
The LPI report, produced by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), shows that the same factors are responsible for animal disappearance and our increasing vulnerability to deadly viruses.
These factors, all through human activity, include the conversion of forests into farms or homes, and the booming wildlife trade.
According to Tanya Steele, director general of WWF, damage is being done to the earth faster by humanity, adding that "nature is being destroyed at a rate never seen before."
Steele said the rate is showing no signs of slowing down, causing problems in all habitat types and around the world. As an example, she said that overfishing has "ravaged marine life".
This is an arctic skua that was photographed in Svalbard. The WWF Living Planet Index (LPI) found that the numbers of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish fell an average of 68 percent between 1970 and 2016 due to deforestation, unsustainable agriculture and illegal wildlife trafficking
This is a camera trap picture of a tiger in Bardia National Park, Nepal. WWF has called for national laws to prevent food and other product supply chains from driving deforestation and wilderness destruction, and to prevent people from switching from meat and dairy products to more plant-based diets
This is an image of a loggerhead sea turtle swimming in the open sea near Zakinthos, Lagana Bay, Greece. The report's authors tracked the fates of nearly 21,000 populations of over 4,000 vertebrate species to create the new index. They have called for urgent action to reverse the trend by 2030
The population pattern for land-based insects varies around the world – some parts of the world are increasing, others are decreasing dramatically, including parts of North America
Most threats to species stem from changes in land and marine use that lead to habitat loss and degradation, the report said. But overuse, invasive species, pollution, and climate change all played a role.
Dr. Andrew Terry, ZSL Director of Conservation, said, “The Living Planet Index is one of the most comprehensive measures of global biodiversity.
& # 39; An average decline of 68 percent over the past 50 years is disastrous and clear evidence of the damage human activities are doing to the natural world.
“If nothing changes, populations will undoubtedly continue to decline, causing wildlife to become extinct and threatening the integrity of the ecosystems on which we all depend.
“But we also know that conservation work and species can be brought back from the edge. With dedication, investment and expertise, these trends can be reversed. & # 39;
This is a zebra or leopard shark that is found throughout the tropical Pacific. Efforts to reverse species depopulation will not be easy, according to the WWF team, which requires courageous methods of conservation as well as measures to improve the sustainability of human food
Open farmland in Britain, typical of those in Lincolnshire and East Anglia, which has been used to grow crops, many of which are fed to animals and which have little or no space for wildlife
This is a picture of an African elephant family group drinking at a watering hole in Sub-Sarahan Africa. From elephants in Central Africa to leatherback turtles in Costa Rica to arctic skuas in Orkney and partridges in the UK, populations of wild animals, birds and fish are staggering, the report warned
An area of deforestation in the Colombian Amazon. The biggest drivers of wildlife loss are changes in land, sea and water use due to human activities such as unsustainable agriculture, logging and development
While conservation efforts have helped species like forest elephants in Ghana and tigers in Nepal, they alone won't be enough to reverse the downward trends, WWF said.
Some species populations fell by nearly 100 percent, including the African gray parrot in southwest Ghana, which fell 99 percent from 1992 to 2014 due to traps for the wild bird trade.
Other examples of species decline are the eastern lowland gorilla. The numbers in Kahuzi-Biega National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo fell 87 percent from 1994 to 2015 due to illegal hunting.
African elephant populations in Tanzania's Selous-Mikumi ecosystem have declined by 86 percent since 1976, mainly due to poaching.
The populations of forest elephants in Ghana (a subspecies of the African elephant) have more than doubled in protected areas, but in the Goaso forest block the population has declined by about 60 percent.
The report examined the overall state of the planet including the effects of agriculture and food production on biodiversity and deforestation. The search for agriculture alone accounts for 70 percent of freshwater consumption
Wildlife populations in freshwater habitats have declined 84 percent – the sharpest decline in any biome, equivalent to four percent per year since 1970. Almost every third freshwater species is threatened with extinction.
More than 3,700 freshwater populations were monitored for the report – including 944 species – and most declines were seen in amphibians, reptiles and fish in all regions of the world.
One example is the spawning Chinese sturgeon in the Yangtze, which fell by 97 percent between 1982 and 2015 due to the congestion of the waterway
When it comes to freshwater species – the bigger the size, the greater the threat – according to the WWF report.
They found that taller creatures like sturgeons, river dolphins, otters, and hippos were at the greatest risk of depopulation.
Leatherback turtles saw declines in two locations – an 84 percent population decrease in Costa Rica between 1995 and 2011 and a 78 percent decrease in Indonesia from 1993 to 2012.
This is an image of an underwater leatherback turtle swimming near the Kei Islands, Moluccas, Indonesia. Wildlife populations in freshwater habitats have declined 84 percent – the sharpest decline of any biome, which is four percent a year since 1970
This is a gray partridge in a bare field in Norfolk. By implementing these measures together and not in isolation, the world can reduce the pressure on wildlife habitats faster
The report looked at the various direct and indirect human activities that lead to global biodiversity loss, such as conflict, epidemics and tourism
A landmark model study published in Nature found that global biodiversity will continue to decline without further efforts to address habitat loss and deterioration.
Changes needed, according to researchers, include more efficient and environmentally sustainable production and trade in food, reducing waste and promoting a healthier and more environmentally friendly diet.
By implementing these measures together and not in isolation, the world can reduce pressure on wildlife habitats faster – this is a program that WWF calls "Bending the Curve".
Based on complex computer models, & # 39; Bending the Curve & # 39; all together the different solutions necessary to work together to not only stop but reverse the global depopulation of species.
They created "action wedges" – actions needed to reverse the trend of declining wildlife populations. This included increased conservation efforts, more sustainable production and consumption.
As part of the modeling, Dr. David Leclere from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) also put the future species population on a “business as usual” path.
This is a picture of an African elephant. A landmark model study published in Nature found that global biodiversity will continue to decline without further efforts to address habitat loss and deterioration
This is an image of a loggerhead sea turtle hatching on Cirali Beach, Turkey. Changes needed, according to researchers, include more efficient and environmentally sustainable production and trade in food, reducing waste and promoting a healthier and more environmentally friendly diet
This is an area of deforestation in the Colombian Amazon. The computer analysis – called "Bending the Curve" – also showed that "business as usual" will lead to the same loss of biodiversity in the years to come
This indicated that the depopulation shown in this Living Planet Index will continue at a pace with no changes.
The implementation of the changes recommended as part of the “Bending the Curve” analysis will take some time to complete over the next few decades, but could lead to reverse losses.
"More irreversible biodiversity losses are likely – which will threaten the myriad of ecosystem services that humans depend on," Leclere said.
Next week, the United Nations General Assembly is expected to review the progress of a number of initiatives including the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
We need to "make our food system more sustainable and remove deforestation – a major contributor to the decline in wildlife populations – from our supply chains," said Dr. Lambertini.
"With heads of state and government gathering virtually for the UN General Assembly in a few days, this research can help us strike a new deal for nature and people that will ensure the long-term survival of wildlife, plant and insect populations and all is vital. " of nature, including humanity. & # 39;
"A New Deal was never needed," said the study's author.
EXTINCTION LOOMS FOR MORE THAN A MILLION SPECIES
According to experts, nature is in more trouble today than ever before in human history. Over a million species of plants and animals are threatened with extinction.
This is the key finding of the United Nations' first comprehensive report on biodiversity – the diversity of plant and animal life in the world or in a given habitat.
The report, released May 6, 2019, says species are being lost ten or a hundred times faster than in the past.
Many of the worst impacts can be prevented by changing the way we grow food, produce energy, deal with climate change and dispose of waste, the report said.
The 39-page executive summary of the report identified five ways that humans are reducing biodiversity:
– Turn forests, meadows and other areas into farms, towns and other developments. The loss of habitat makes plants and animals homeless. About three-quarters of the earth's land, two-thirds of the oceans, and 85% of key wetlands have been severely altered or lost, making species difficult to survive, the report said.
– Overfishing of the world's oceans. A third of the world's fish stocks are overfished.
– Allow fossil fuel burning to cause climate change to become too hot, wet, or dry for some species to survive. Almost half of the world's land mammals – excluding bats – and almost a quarter of birds have already had their habitats severely affected by global warming.
– Land and water pollution. Every year, 300 to 400 million tons of heavy metals, solvents and toxic sludge are dumped into the world's waters.
– Allow invasive species to displace native plants and animals. Die Zahl der invasiven gebietsfremden Arten pro Land ist seit 1970 um 70 Prozent gestiegen, wobei eine Bakterienart fast 400 Amphibienarten bedroht.
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