Wildlife in ‘catastrophic decline’, WWF report warns

Wildlife in 'catastrophic decline', WWF report warns1
The report says wildlife is under pressure from habitat loss. Source: Pexels.com
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Daily US Times: According to a major report by the conservation group WWF, wildlife populations have fallen by more than two-thirds in less than 50 years and it says this “catastrophic decline” shows no sign of slowing.

And the report warns that nature is being destroyed by humans at a rate never seen before.

Chief executive at WWF Tanya Steele says wildlife is “in freefall” as we burn forests, over-fish our seas and destroy wild areas.

She added: “We are wrecking our world – the one place we call home – risking our health, security and survival here on Earth. Now nature is sending us a desperate SOS and time is running out.”

What do the numbers mean?

The report looked at thousands of different wildlife species monitored by conservation scientists in habitats around the world.

They recorded an average 68% fall in more than 20,000 populations of birds, amphibians, reptiles, mammals and fish since 1970.

Dr Andrew Terry, director of conservation at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), says the decline was clear evidence of the damage human activity is doing to the natural world.

He said: “If nothing changes, populations will undoubtedly continue to fall, driving wildlife to extinction and threatening the integrity of the ecosystems on which we depend.”

The report says the Covid-19 pandemic is a stark reminder of how humans and nature are intertwined.

Factors believed to lead to the emergence of pandemics – including the use and trade of wildlife and habitat loss – are also some of the drivers behind the decline in wildlife.

New modelling evidence suggests we can halt and even reverse deforestation and habitat loss if we take urgent conservation action and change the way we produce and consume food.

The British naturalist and TV presenter Sir David Attenborough said the Anthropocene, the geological age during which human activity has come to the fore, could be the moment we achieve a balance with the natural world and become stewards of our planet.

He said: “Doing so will require systemic shifts in how we produce food, create energy, manage our oceans and use materials.”

“But above all it will require a change in perspective. A change from viewing nature as something that’s optional or ‘nice to have’ to the single greatest ally we have in restoring balance to our world.”

How do we measure the loss of nature?

Measuring the variety of all life on Earth is complex, but experts can do that with a number of different measures.

Taken together, they provide evidence that biodiversity is being destroyed at a rate unprecedented in human history.

This particular WWF report uses an index of whether populations of wildlife are going up or down. It does not tell us the number of extinctions or species lost.

The largest declines are in tropical areas as the report says. The drop of 94% for the Caribbean and Latin America is the largest anywhere in the world, driven by a cocktail of threats to amphibians, reptiles and birds.

Louise McRae of ZSL. said: “This report is looking at the global picture and the need to act soon in order to start reversing these trends.”

The data has been used for modelling work to look at what might be needed to reverse the decline.

Research published in the journal Naturesuggests that to turn the tide we must transform the way we consume and produce food, including reducing food waste and eating food with a lower environmental impact.

Source: Pexels.com

Prof Dame Georgina Mace of UCL said conservation actions alone wouldn’t be sufficient to “bend the curve on biodiversity loss”.

She said: “It will require actions from other sectors, and here we show that the food system will be particularly important, both from the agricultural sector on the supply side, and consumers on the demand side.”

International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) compiled the extinction data. IUCN has evaluated more than 100,000 species of animals and plants and animals, with more than 32,000 species threatened with extinction.

In 2019, an intergovernmental panel of scientists concluded that one million species (500,000 plants and animals, and 500,000 insects) are threatened with extinction, some within decades.

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