Bern: The global populations of vertebrates – mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles – have declined by 60 per cent since 1970, according to a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report released on Tuesday.
The “Living Planet Report of the Global Fund for Nature” collects the most recent data from the Living Planet Index (LPI), which has analysed the status of 16,704 wildlife populations of 4,005 vertebrate species between 1970 and 2014, reports Efe news.
This is the 12th report, which has been prepared since 20 years by the veteran conservation NGO, on the environmental situation of the Earth and reflects a worrying trend in the state of biodiversity and the planet’s health.
Among the groups of animals studied, the most affected have been those living in fresh water, which show an 83 per cent reduction since 1970 and they have the “highest extinction rate” in the 20th century among vertebrates worldwide.
The regions with the greatest impact are found in the tropics, where Central and South America have suffered an 89 per cent decrease in vertebrate populations compared to the base year.
As the main cause of this “serious decline in biodiversity”, the WWF puts its focus on the “uncontrolled” patterns of human consumption, which it says is “responsible” for the over exploitation of ecosystems and agriculture, as well as of pollution, invasive species and diseases as well as climate change.
“We can no longer ignore the impact of current unsustainable production models and wasteful lifestyles.” said Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International.
Globally, nature provides services worth approximately $125 trillion annually and helps ensure the supply of fresh air, clean water, food, energy or medicine.
Mangroves, for example, trap almost five times more carbon than tropical forests; crops partially pollinated by animals account for 35 per cent of the world’s food production; and coral reefs protect around 200 million people against storm surges, according to the report.
However, functions such as these “have been taken for granted until now by not acting against the accelerated loss of nature”, lamented Lambertini.
The ecological footprint of the planet “has increased by almost 190 percent” in the last fifty years, says the report on the parameters that measure the consumption of natural resources.
In this period “20 per cent of the Amazon” and “between 30 and 50 per cent of the mangroves” have decreased, while in the last 30 years, the Earth “has lost approximately half of its corals in shallow waters”, and pollinators such as bees are “under increasing threat”.
Given this, “it is time to urgently rethink how we use nature” and appreciate it as an “essential” asset, Lambertini added.
“If there was a 60 per cent decline in the human population, that would be equivalent to emptying North America, South America, Africa, Europe, China and Oceania. That is the scale of what we have done.” said Mike Barrett, science and conservation director at WWF.
The 14th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) will be held in Egypt in November and will be, according to WWF, a “key” moment to lay the foundations of a global agreement for nature, “as was done for the climate in Paris in 2015”, the report said.