Animal populations experience average decline of almost 70% since 1970, report reveals

As humans continue to clear forests, exploit beyond the planet’s limits, and pollute on an industrial scale, wildlife populations on Earth have declined by an average of 69% in less than 50 years, according to leading scientific assessments.

From open oceans to tropical rainforests, the abundance of birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles has declined by more than two-thirds on average between 1970 and 2018, according to a biennial report by WWF and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL). Living Planet Report. The figure from two years ago stood at 68%four years ago, It was on 60%

Many scientists believe us Living through the sixth mass extinction – the greatest loss of life on Earth since the time of the dinosaurs – and it’s being driven by humans. The report’s 89 authors are urging world leaders to reach an ambitious agreement Cop15 Biodiversity Summit in Canada this December and to reduce carbon emissions to limit global warming below 1.5C this decade to halt the rampant destruction of nature.

The Living Planet Index combines a global analysis of 32,000 populations of 5,230 animal species and measures changes in wildlife abundance across continents and taxa, creating a graph similar to the Stock Index of Life on Earth.

The region of Latin America and the Caribbean – including the Amazon – has seen the largest decline in average wildlife population size, with a 94% decline over 48 years. Tanya Steele, chief executive of WWF-UK, said: “This report tells us that the region of Latin America, home to the world’s largest rainforest, the Amazon, has suffered the worst declines. Deforestation Rates are rising rapidly, undermining not only trees, but the unique ecosystem that depends on them, and the Amazon’s ability to serve as our greatest ally in the fight against climate change.”

A set of graphs showing the decline in biodiversity since 1970 in 5 world regions

Africa had the second largest decline at 66%, followed by Asia and the Pacific at 55% and North America at 20%. Europe and Central Asia saw an 18% decline. According to the report, the total loss is similar to the human population of Europe, America, Africa, Oceania and China.

“Despite science, catastrophic predictions, impassioned speeches and promises, burning forests, submerged countries, record temperatures and millions displaced, world leaders sit back and watch our world burn before our eyes,” Steele said. “The perils of climate and nature, their fates at stake, are not distant threats that our great-grandchildren will solve with yet-to-be-discovered technologies.”

She added: “We need our new Prime Minister to show that the UK is serious about people, nature and a thriving economy, ensuring that every promise we make to the world is kept. Falling short will not be forgotten or forgiven. “

A young lion looks up at the city skyline in Nairobi National Park. Lions are listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, with perhaps fewer than 23,000 left in the wild. Photo: Tony Carumba/AFP/Getty Images

Liz Truss has been accused by leading nature charities Prioritizing economy over nature conservation and environment, and concerned that rare animals and plants may lose their protection. A “Bonfire” of EU Red Tape Happens later this year.

The report notes that not all countries have the same starting point with natural decline, and the UK has Only 50% of biodiversity richness Accordingly compared to historical levels Biodiversity Integrity IndexIt makes it one of the most degraded countries in the world.

According to the report, land use change is the single most important driver of biodiversity loss across the planet. Mike Barrett, executive director of science and conservation at WWF-UK, said: “Globally, the declines we are seeing are primarily due to habitat loss and fragmentation driven by the global agricultural system and its expansion into intact habitat. To prepare that food.”

Researchers have highlighted the increased difficulty animals move through terrestrial landscapes as they are blocked by infrastructure and farmland. Only 37% of rivers longer than 1,000 km (600 mi) are free-flowing along their entire length, while only 10% of the world’s protected areas on land are connected.

Future declines are not inevitable, the authors say, citing the Himalayas, Southeast Asia, the east coast of Australia, the Albertine Rift and Eastern Arc Mountains of East Africa, and the Amazon Basin as priority areas.

The IUCN is also developing a standard for measuring an animal’s conservation potential, known as its green status, which will allow researchers to chart a path to recovery for some of the planet’s one million endangered species. Pink Pigeon, Burrowing Betong and Sumatran Rhinoceros were highlighted as species with good conservation potential. In a study last year.

A wild pink pigeon in the Black River Gorges National Park in Mauritius
A wild pink pigeon – in the Black River Gorges National Park in Mauritius – is identified as a species that could benefit from conservation efforts. Photo: Mauritius Wildlife Photography/Images

Robin Freeman, Head of the Indicators and Evaluation Unit at ZSL, said it was clear that humanity was undermining life and that urgent action was needed. “To see any tilting of the biodiversity loss curve … it’s not just about conservation but about changing production and consumption – and the only way we can legislate or call for that is to have these clear measurable targets. which calls for recovery of abundance, reduction of extinction risk and halting of extinction in Cop15 in December.

This article’s headline was edited on 13 October 2022 to clarify that the figure is an average across different populations.

Find out more Extinct coverage age hereAnd follow biodiversity journalists Phoebe Weston And Patrick Greenfield on Twitter for all the latest news and features

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