Global wildlife population decline by 68% since 1970: WWF

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New Delhi (NVI): The global population of mammals, birds, amphibians, fish and reptiles has seen a decline of around 68 per cent between 1970 and 2016, according to the World Wildlife Fund’s Living Planet Report 2020.

According to the Living Planet Index (LPI), the average two-thirds decline in global populations of wildlife species, in less than 50 years in large parts is due to the same environmental destruction, which is contributing to emergence of zoonotic diseases such as COVID-19.

The index shows that factors believed to increase the planet’s vulnerability to pandemics, including land-use change and the use and trade of wildlife, were also behind the 68 per cent decline in global vertebrate species populations, according to the report.

Natural habitat loss, degradation and deforestation driven by food production processes were the other factors the report attributed the decline to.

The WWF report tracked almost 21,000 populations of more than 4,000 vertebrate species between 1970 and 2016, also shows that wildlife populations found in freshwater habitats have suffered a decline of 84 per cent.

Marco Lambertini, director general, WWF International said, “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.”

“We can’t ignore the evidence. These serious declines in wildlife populations are an indicator that nature is unravelling and that our planet is flashing red warning signs of systems failure. The decline of wildlife directly affects nutrition, food security and the livelihoods of billions of people,” he stated.

Lambertini also said in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic, it is now more important than ever to take unprecedented global action to halt and start to reverse the loss of biodiversity and wildlife populations across the globe, and protect future health and livelihoods. “Our own survival increasingly depends on it,” he added.

Based on a research paper, ‘Bending the curve of terrestrial biodiversity needs an integrated strategy,’ which is co-authored by WWF and over 40 NGOs and academic institutions and is published in Nature, the LPR 2020 also includes a pioneering modelling, which shows that without further efforts to counteract habitat loss and degradation, global biodiversity will continue to decline.

The research, however, shows that implementing these measures together rather than in isolation will allow the world to rapidly alleviate pressures on wildlife habitats.

“The focus of the Living Planet Report 2020 is to reiterate a scientific case for the urgent action we need to protect and restore nature and biodiversity,” said Ravi Singh Secretary General and CEO, WWF India.

-RJV