The World has lost about 70 per cent of its wildlife population since 1970 with biodiversity loss and climate change sharing many of the underlying causes, according to World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Living Planet Report 2022.
In the report, the WWF said that populations in Latin America and the Caribbean have fared worst, with an average decline of 94%. Global freshwater species have also been disproportionately impacted, declining 83% on average.
In the report, the authors identifies several key drivers of biodiversity decline including habitat loss, species overexploitation, invasive species, pollution, climate change and diseases. As biodiversity loss and climate change share many of the same underlying causes, actions that transform food production and consumption, rapidly cut emissions, and invest in conservation can mitigate the twin crises, the report said.
WWF-US President and CEO Carter Robertssaid that the world is now waking up to the fact that the future depends on reversing the loss of nature just as much as it depends on addressing climate change. “And you can’t solve one without solving the other. Everyone has a role to play in reversing these trends, from individuals to companies to governments,” the President said.
“These plunges in wildlife populations can have dire consequences for our health and economies,” says Rebecca Shaw, global chief scientist of WWF. “When wildlife populations decline to this degree, it means dramatic changes are impacting their habitats and the food and water they rely on. We should care deeply about the unravelling of natural systems because these same resources sustain human life.”
WILDLIFE; FRESH WATER
Monitored freshwater populations have declined by an average of 83% since 1970, more than any other species groups. Habitat loss and barriers to migration routes account for around half the threats to these populations.
- The decline across Latin America and the Caribbean is far greater than any other region, with a 94% decrease between 1970 and 2018. Declines are seen across all the species but are most profound in freshwater fish, reptiles, and amphibians.
- Africa shows a consistent decreasing population trend from 1970 to 2017, with mammals and freshwater fish seeing stronger declines on average than other animal groups. Some populations, however, are defying the global trend. For example, populations of mountain gorillas in Virunga Mountains have grown to 604 individuals—up from 480 in 2010—despite years of civil unrest in the area.
- The Asia Pacific region shows a near continuous decline between 1970 and 2018, with an average decline in monitored populations of 55%. Declines across all species groups in this region were observed. In South and West Australia for example, there was a 64% reduction in Australian sea lion pup numbers between 1977 and 2019, due to hunting, capture in fishing gear or other marine debris, and disease.
- North America saw a downward trend from 1970 to 2000. After this time, the trend stabilized before increasing from 2014 to 2018. It is important to note that prior to the data being compiled, wildlife populations had already been affected by human activity for many decades. While it is too early to say that species numbers are significantly increasing there have been some recent positive signs among amphibian and reptile populations.
- Although Europe and Central Asia saw the smallest recorded regional decline, it should be recognized that many species were already in a depleted state when data started being compiled. While this year’s Living Planet Index shows more positive trends among bird and mammal populations, amphibian, reptile, and freshwater fish populations are, on average, declining.
WILDLIFE; LAND USE
The report points out that land-use change was the biggest threat to nature, destroying or fragmenting the natural habitats of many plant and animal species on land, in freshwater and in the sea. The authors warn that of warming is most limited to 1.5°C, climate change is likely to become the dominant cause of biodiversity loss in the coming decades. “Rising temperatures are already driving mass mortality events, as well as the first extinctions of entire species. Every degree of warming is expected to increase these losses and the impact they have on people,” the report said.
Noting that the the planet is in the midst of a biodiversity and climate crisis, the report said that a nature-positive future needs transformative – game changing – shifts in “how we produce, how we consume, how we govern, and what we finance. We hope it inspires you to be part of that change.”
The Living Planet Index, provided by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), is an early warning indicator of the health of nature. This year’s edition analyses almost 32,000 species populations with more than 838 new species and just over 11,000 new populations added since the 2020 edition. It provides a comprehensive measure of how wildlife is responding to environmental pressures driven by biodiversity loss and climate change, while also allowing us to better understand the impact of people on biodiversity.
WILDLIFE; THE PATH AHEAD
- Recognizing and respecting the rights, governance, and conservation leadership of Indigenous Peoples and local communities is imperative to delivering a nature-positive future.
- The world should adopt a shared global goal for nature, to guide and drive action across governments, business and society
- A global goal of reversing biodiversity loss to secure a nature positive world by 2030 is necessary
- Action to secure a nature-positive world, measured through an increase in the health, abundance, diversity and resilience of species, populations and ecosystems, need to be taken