PARIS, France – Wild populations of monitored animal species have fallen by almost 70 percent over the past 50 years, according to a landmark assessment published Thursday that highlights the “devastating” loss of nature caused by human activity.
The so called “Developing” enthusiasts and already “Developed Nations” have successfully wiped out a vast majority of wildlife and achieved nothing substantial in development model.
The WWF Living Planet Index, which includes data from 32,000 populations of more than 5,000 species of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish, shows accelerating declines worldwide.
In biodiversity-rich regions such as Latin America and the Caribbean, animal population losses are as high as 94 percent.
Globally, the report found that populations of the monitored animals have declined by 69% since 1970.
Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International, said his organization was “extremely concerned” by the new figures.
“(It shows) a devastating decline in wildlife populations, particularly in the tropics, which are home to some of the most diverse landscapes in the world,” he said.
Mark Wright, WWF’s scientific director, said the numbers were “really scary”, especially for Latin America.
“Latin America is obviously known for its biodiversity, it’s really important for a lot of other things as well,” he said.
“It is very important for climate regulation. We estimate that something like 150 to 200 billion tons of carbon is currently stored in the Amazon rainforest.
This equates to 550 to 740 billion tons of CO2, which is 10 to 15 times more than annual greenhouse gas emissions at the current rate.
The index found that freshwater species have declined more than species found in any other habitat, with an 83 percent decline in populations since 1970.
The report found that the main drivers of wildlife loss are habitat degradation due to development and agriculture, exploitation, the introduction of invasive species, pollution, climate change and disease.
Lambertini said the world must rethink its harmful and wasteful agricultural practices before the global food chain collapses.
“Food systems are responsible for more than 80 percent of deforestation on land today, and if you look at the ocean and freshwater, they’re also causing the collapse of fish stocks and populations in those habitats,” he said.
With world leaders set to gather in Montreal for the COP15 biodiversity summit in December, the report’s authors called for an international binding commitment to protect nature, similar to the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.
The Living Planet Report argues that increased conservation and restoration efforts, more sustainable food production and consumption, and rapid and deep decarbonization of all sectors can mitigate the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss.
It also calls for governments to take due account of the value of services provided by nature, such as food, medicine and water supplies, in policy-making.
“We need to emphasize the fact that the loss of nature is not just a moral issue of our duty to protect the rest of the world. It’s actually a question of material value, a question of security for humanity as well,” said Lambertini.
Some areas have experienced greater population declines than others – for example, Europe saw its wildlife population decline by 18 percent.
“But it also masks historical, very extreme biodiversity losses,” said Andrew Terry, director of conservation at the Zoological Society of London, which helped compile the data.
“We know we’re coming out of (a) low point in the state of biodiversity in the Northern Hemisphere.”
In Africa, where 70 percent of livelihoods rely on nature in some form, the report showed that the number of wild animals has fallen by two-thirds since 1970.
Alice Ruhweza, WWF’s regional director for Africa, said the assessment showed the “huge human cost” of wildlife loss.
She said young people in particular were concerned about wildlife conservation and would push governments to introduce stricter conservation measures.
“We have a young, enterprising and increasingly educated population that is showing greater awareness of nature issues,” Ruhweza said.
“So the potential for transformational change is really significant. But time is running out and we must act now.”