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Home ยป Living planet report: Global populations of wild animals declined 69% in 50 years

Living planet report: Global populations of wild animals declined 69% in 50 years

Living planet report: Global populations of wild animals declined 69% in 50 years

Global populations of wild animals, (fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals) declined 69% between 1970 and 2018 due to six main threats: agriculture, overexploitation of wildlife, logging, pollution, species invaders and climate change.

The Living Planet Report, published every two years since 1998 by the World Wide Fund for Nature, looks at how 32,000 populations of more than 5,230 species around the world are faring by measuring the growth or decline of their populations. 

“Decreases in abundance are early warning indicators of overall ecosystem health, and severe declines like this tell us that nature is falling apart,” states the report, produced in collaboration with the Zoological Society of London.

Living planet report: Global populations of wild animals declined 69% in 50 years. Source: unsplash/Sebastian Pena Lambarri

The report is based on WWF’s Living Planet Index of wildlife species. This year, the researchers added 838 new species to the index, most of them from Latin America and Africa, regions that have been underrepresented in the past. To make the index, an animal species must have been well-monitored since at least 1970.

However, more information only revealed in greater detail the vast destruction of animal life, particularly in tropical forests, which contain a disproportionate variety of the world’s plants and animals. Monitored populations in Latin America and the Caribbean showed an average drop of 94% since 1970. During the same period, those in Africa fell by 66%, while those in the Asia Pacific region fell by 55%.

Other regions saw smaller declines: in North America, monitored populations fell by 20%, and in Europe and Central Asia by a more modest 18%.

Source: unsplash/Matthew Kosloski

Some of the most dramatic declines occurred not on any continent but in oceans and waterways. WWF found an 83% decline in the abundance of species that depend on freshwater. Shark and ray populations have been reduced by 71% over the last half-century due to an 18-fold increase in fishing pressure from humans.

Double emergency

The biennial publication of WWF and the Zoological Society of London once again stresses the warning message that the Earth is currently experiencing a “double emergency” that represents “two sides of the same coin”: the climate crisis and the loss of biodiversity.

The repercussions of this double global crisis are being felt with displacement and deaths caused by increasingly frequent extreme weather events, increased food insecurity, depleted soils, lack of access to fresh water or increased expansion of zoonotic diseases. These negative impacts affect all people, especially the most impoverished and marginalized.

Freshwater populations show the largest overall decline globally. Source: unsplash/Mika Baumeister

Freshwater populations show the largest overall decline globally, with 83% between 1970 and 2018. One example is the Amazon river dolphin, whose population suffered a 65% decline.

On the other hand, half of the planet’s corals have been lost, with the negative impact that this entails, since they are home to a quarter of all marine species and support a complex food chain that includes humans. And the global abundance of 18 of the 31 species of oceanic sharks and rays has decreased by 71% in the last fifty years.

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On the other hand, the report indicates that behind this population decline in wildlife are habitat degradation and loss, overexploitation of species, the introduction of invasive species, pollution, climate change and disease.

Several of these factors influenced the 66% drop in Africa’s wildlife populations between 1970 and 2018, as well as the 55% overall drop in Asia-Pacific. Changes in land use are the biggest threat to nature.

The Report argues that the double environmental crisis can be mitigated by increased conservation and restoration efforts, more sustainable food production and consumption, and rapid and deep decarbonization of all sectors.

Several of these factors influenced the 66% drop in Africa’s wildlife populations. Source: unsplash/Naja Bertolt Jensen

The 89 authors who participated in the drafting of the text call on policymakers to transform economies so that natural resources are properly valued and make it clear that it will not be possible to achieve a positive future for nature without recognizing and respecting rights, governance and the conservation leadership of indigenous peoples and local communities around the world.

The report highlights that the United Nations Human Rights Council recognized last year that all people have the right to live in a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.

Healthy environment

For WWF, climate collapse, loss of nature, pollution and the covid-19 pandemic are human rights crises. Stronger environmental laws and policies, better implementation and enforcement, greater public participation, and better environmental performance have been achieved in more than 80 countries where the right to a healthy environment has been recognized.

climate collapse, loss of nature, and pollution are human rights crises. Source: unsplash/Dustan Woodhouse

“We can build a future where both people and nature can thrive. For this, it is essential to include new approaches that integrate equity, justice and the effects of climate change and the loss of nature, as well as systemic changes that address the way we produce and consume, the technology we use and our economic and financial systems. To promote such changes, we must stop talking about goals and objectives to talk about values ​​and rights, both in the conception of policies and in daily life”, stressed Juan Carlos del Olmo, general secretary of WWF.

World leaders will meet at the 15th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP15) next December. WWF hopes that they commit to an agreement similar to the Paris Agreement for climate change that is capable of reversing the loss of biodiversity and ensuring a positive nature by 2030, that is, that at the end of this decade there is more nature than at the beginning.

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