WWF report points to a 68% reduction in animal populations on the planet since 1970, which includes mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish.
The Living Planet Report 2020 by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) reveals that two-thirds of the planet’s wildlife has disappeared in less than 50 years. According to the document, this includes mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish.
The culprit is the massive environmental destruction caused by humans, which has also contributed to the emergence of zoonotic diseases like Covid-19.
An article on the findings was recently published in the journal Nature.
The Living Planet Index (LPI), provided by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), shows that land-use change and wildlife trade are among the factors that contributed to the emergence of the pandemic.
Wildlife trade also led to a reduction of almost 68% in global populations of vertebrate species between 1970 and 2016.
“We can’t ignore the evidence – these serious declines in wildlife species populations are an indicator that nature is unravelling and that our planet is flashing red warning signs of systems failure,” said Marco Lambertini, Director General, WWF International.
“From the fish in our oceans and rivers to bees which play a crucial role in our agricultural production, the decline of wildlife affects directly nutrition, food security and the livelihoods of billions of people.”
According to Lambertini, it is now more important than ever to take coordinated global action to halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity and wildlife populations around the world. These actions will also be important to protect our health and future livelihoods.
LPI tracked nearly 21,000 populations of more than 4,000 vertebrate species between 1970 and 2016. The index also shows that populations found in freshwater habitats have declined by 84%.
For instance, the spawning population of the Chinese sturgeon in the Yangtze River in China decreased by 97% between 1982 and 2015 due to the damming of the waterway.
In addition to revealing the significant loss of wildlife populations, the LPI also showed that many species have become endangered, such as the eastern lowland gorilla, whose numbers in the Kahuzi-Biega National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have declined by 87% between 1994 and 2015, mainly due to illegal hunting.
“These losses would at best take decades to reverse, and further irreversible biodiversity losses are likely, putting at risk the myriad ecosystem services that people depend on,” said David Leclère, leader of the study.