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Wildlife Populations decline by 50% since 1970

Thursday 16 October 2014

Original article by Wildlife Extra

A new report undertaken by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Zoological Society of London (ZSL) has revealed that wildlife species around the world have continued to decline sharply, and numbers are today at a staggering 52 per cent fewer than in 1970. 

The Living Planet Report 2014 measured over 10,000 representative populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish in order to assess the state of the world’s biodiversity. 

The report concludes that unsustainable human consumption is responsible for the continued decline of the world’s species, citing overfishing, habitat destruction, pollution, and global warming as the causes. 

Using data from the report, a Living Planet Index (LPI) was created to reflect the state of all 45,000 known species.

The most alarming decline in species populations was in freshwater ecosystems, where numbers have dropped by 76 per cent since 1970. The numbers of wildlife living on land had fallen by 39 per cent, and marine animal populations had also dropped by 39 per cent in the same time period.

Of marine animals, turtles were the most hard hit, with their numbers dropping by 80 per cent due to the destruction of their nesting grounds and casualties from fishing nets. 

The biggest declines in animal numbers since 1970 were found to have occurred in developing countries, while conservations efforts in rich nations had seen small improvements in population figures.

However, the report also stated that wealthy nations are importing goods produced by habitat destruction from developing countries, which means that they share in the responsibility of the decline in biodiversity in low-income nations.

A second index in the Living Planet Report calculated humankind’s ecological footprint in order to measure the scale it is using up natural resources. It calculated that today’s average rate of global consumption would need 1.5 Earths to sustain it.

Looking at just the United States, however, it calculated the country would need a total of four planet Earths to sustain it, while Kuwait was found to be the worst offender in terms of its carbon output. 

Speaking on the report, David Nussbaum, Chief Executive of WWF-UK says: “The scale of the destruction highlighted in this report should be a wake-up call for us all.

"But 2015 – when the countries in the world are due to come together to agree on a new global climate agreement, as well as a set of sustainable development goals – presents us with a unique opportunity to reverse the trends. 

"We all – politicians, businesses and people – have an interest, and a responsibility, to act to ensure we protect what we all value: a healthy future for both people and nature.”

The report itself is prefaced with a note of hope. It says: "Things look so worrying that it may seem difficult to feel positive about the future. Difficult, certainly, but not impossible – because it is in ourselves, who have caused the problem, that we can find the solution.

"Now we must work to ensure that the upcoming generation can seize the opportunity that we have so far failed to grasp, to close this destructive chapter in our history, and build a future where people can live and prosper in harmony with nature."

You can view more findings from the Living Planet Report on WWF’s website.