Animal populations worldwide have declined by nearly 70% in just 50 years

Pablo Tucker
September 12, 2020

Species in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as global freshwater habitats, were disproportionately impacted, declining, on average, 94% and 84%, respectively.

The United Nations published a sweeping report previous year cautioning that 1 million of the estimated 8 million plant and animal species on the planet are at risk of extinction, many within decades, because of human activities.

"The Living Planet Report 2020 indicates how humanity's increasing destruction of nature is having catastrophic impacts on wildlife populations and also on human health and all aspects of our lives,"said Marco Lambertini, director general, WWF International". It shows that the main cause of the dramatic decline in species populations on land observed in the LPI is habitat loss and degradation, including deforestation, driven by how we as humanity produce food.

"COVID-19 is a clear manifestation of our broken relationship with nature, and highlights the deep interconnection between the health of both people and the planet".

Global animal, bird and fish populations have plummeted more than two-thirds in less than 50 years due to rampant over-consumption, experts said Thursday in a stark warning to save nature in order to save ourselves.

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Environmentalists say conserving existing forests and restoring damaged ones reduces the risk of flooding, helps limit global warming by storing more carbon, and protects biodiversity.

Overall, the report urges world leaders to treat biodiversity conservation as a non-negotiable and strategic investment to preserve human health, wealth and security. "On the plus side, the modelling also shows that it is possible for us to stabilise and reverse these trends through more ambitious conservation efforts and by making fundamental changes to the way we live, including reducing food waste and through the pursuit of a more sustainable diet".

Writing in the Living Planet Report 2020, Michael Obersteiner (The Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford and IIASA), says "today's computing power has been used to develop a proof of concept to do just this - to bend the curve of biodiversity loss".

The report says that the kinds of steep wildlife population decreases the Earth has seen in recent decades have not been seen for millions of years.

The decline is happening at an unprecedented rate, the report warns, and it threatens human life as well.

Researchers believe the change in land use is the most direct driver for loss of biodiversity, particularly the conversion of habitats into agricultural systems. "Tigers, for instance, saw an increase of 64% since 1970, because there's been a real concerted effort to increase the tiger populations in the national parks in Nepal, and it's really made a difference", said Shaw. "It is easy to talk about transformational change, but how will we, living in our complex, highly connected modern society, make it a reality?" the report asks.

As a final statement, the report calls out to "citizens, governments and business leaders around the globe" who will "need to be part of a movement for change with a scale, urgency and ambition never seen before".

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