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World Wildlife Populations Drop by More Than Half in 40 Years – WWF

World Wildlife Populations Drop by More Than Half in 40 Years – WWF

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The world’s animal population has halved in 40 years as humans put unsustainable demands on Earth, according to The World Wide Fund for Nature’s Living Planet Index, released 30 September.

The existence of Hawksbill sea turtles, who also call the waters of the Coral Triangle Region their home, have been traced back 100 million years. Now they are critically endangered, the WWF says. (Photo by WWF)

The existence of Hawksbill sea turtles, who also call the waters of the Coral Triangle Region their home, have been traced back 100 million years. Now they are critically endangered, the WWF says. (Photo by WWF)

The Living Planet Report is the world’s leading, science-based analysis on the health of our planet and the impact of human activity. Knowing we only have one planet, WWF believes that humanity can make better choices that translate into clear benefits for ecology, society and the economy today and in the long term.

This latest edition of the Living Planet Report is not for the faint-hearted. One key point that jumps out is that the Living Planet Index (LPI), which measures more than 10,000 representative populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish, has declined by 52 per cent since 1970. Aside from revealing the dramatic decline in animal species, the report also said the trend could cost the world billions in economic losses.

The Living Planet Report 2014 also shows Ecological Footprint – a measure of humanity’s demands on nature – continuing its upward climb. Taken together, biodiversity loss and unsustainable footprint threaten natural systems and human well-being, but can also point us toward actions to reverse current trends.

“Biodiversity is a crucial part of the systems that sustain life on Earth – and the barometer of what we are doing to this planet, our only home. We urgently need bold global action in all sectors of society to build a more sustainable future,” said WWF International Director General Marco Lambertini.

The index, which draws on research around WWF’s database of 3,000 animal species, is released every two years. This year’s has the starkest warning yet of the risks associated with the decline of wildlife.

Researchers from the Zoological Society of London looked at changes in populations of more than 3,000 species of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish, tracking over 10,000 different populations.

140930123029-wildlife-loss-infographic-species-horizontal-galleryThe fund notes that it’s relying on a never-before-used methodology in this year’s report, “which aims to be more representative of global biodiversity.”

Previously, the Living Planet Index was calculated using the average decline in all of the species populations measured. The new weighted methodology analyses the data to provide what ZSL says is a much more accurate calculation of the collective status of populations in all species and regions.

A ZSL spokesman explained this to BBC News: “For example, if most measurements in a particular region are of bird populations, but the greatest actual number of vertebrates in the region are fish, then it is necessary to give a greater weighting to measurements of fish populations if we are to have an accurate picture of the rate of population decline for species in that region.

Under current conditions, it will take 1.5 Earths to support today's human population given current lifestyle trends. (WWF Living Planet Report)

Under current conditions, it will take 1.5 Earths to support today’s human population given current lifestyle trends. (WWF Living Planet Report)

“Different weightings are applied between regions, and between marine, terrestrial and freshwater environments. We are simply being more sophisticated with the way we use the data.”
“Applying the new method to the 2008 dataset we find that things were considerably worse than what we thought at the time. It is clear that we are seeing a significant long-term trend in declining species populations.”

The index showed shows a 52% decline in wildlife between 1970 and 2010, far more than earlier estimates of 30%. It reveals a continued decline in these populations. The global trend is not slowing down.

The BBC said, “the report shows that the biggest recorded threat to biodiversity comes from the combined impacts of habitat loss and degradation, driven by what WWF calls unsustainable human consumption.”

“We are eating into our natural capital, making it more difficult to sustain the needs of future generations,” the report said.

Animals living in tropics are the worst hit by what WWF calls “the biggest recorded threats to our planet’s wildlife” as 63% of wildlife living in tropics has vanished. Central and South America shows the most dramatic regional decline, with a fall of 83%.

And while the animals are suffering now, the long-term impact will be on people, the report said.

According to Lambertini, the threat to oceans could create economic losses of up to $428 billion by 2050. The global fishing sector employs more than 660 million people, and fish provide more than 15% of protein in people’s diet.

Global food security is under threat as the demands of growing population drain the resources. Forests provide water, fuel and food for more than billion people, including 350 million of the world’s poorest people.

The Living Planet Report 2014 serves as a platform for global dialogue, decision-making and action for governments, businesses and civil society at a critical time for the planet.

The report provides WWF’s “One Planet Perspective” with strategies to preserve, produce and consume more wisely. It also includes examples of how communities are already making better choices to reduce footprint and biodiversity loss.

(Story culled from reports from BBC and WWF)

 

DOWNLOAD: Booklet Summary of the Living Planet Report

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