Global forest life falls by more than two-thirds in 50 years: Index

The world's animal, bird and fish populations have fallen by more than two-thirds in less than 50 years due to overuse, experts said in a stern warning on Thursday. ...

Global forest life falls by more than two-thirds in 50 years: Index

Human activity has devastated three-quarters of all land and 40 percent of the world's oceans, and the rapid destruction of our nature is likely to have far-reaching consequences for our health and livelihoods.

The Living Planet Index, which identifies more than 4,000 species, warns that deforestation and agricultural expansion have increased behind an average 68% decline in population between 1970 and 2016.

It warns that continued loss of natural habitat increases the risk of future epidemics as humans increase their presence in close contact with wildlife.

The Living Planet 2020 report between WWF International and the Zoological Society of London is the 13th edition of a biennial publication that tracks wildlife populations around the world.

Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International, told AFP that the earth's biodiversity had been at an all-time low since the 1970s.

"This is a rapid decline that we have been monitoring for 30 years and it is going in the wrong direction," he said.
"In 2016 we documented a 60 per cent reduction, now we have a 70 per cent reduction.

"It's all in the blink of an eye compared to millions of years ago when there were so many generations living on the planet," Lambertini added.

- 'Amazing' fall -

The last half-decade has seen extraordinary economic growth due to the explosion in global consumption of natural resources.

Although by 1970, humanity was less than Earth's ability to recreate environmentally friendly resources; the WWF now calculates that we are using more than half of the planet's capacity.

While with the help of factors such as invasive species and pollution, changes in land use are the single biggest driver of extinct species: in general, industry converts forest or grasslands into fields.

This causes a lot of damage to wild species, which lose their homes.

But sustainable resources are also needed’ to sustain it: one-third of all the earth's mass and three-quarters of all freshwater are now devoted to food production.

The picture is just as dire at sea, where 75% of fish stocks are, exploited.

And while wildlife is declining rapidly, the species is disappearing faster in some places than in others.

The index said the tropical regions of Central and South America have seen a 94 percent decline in species since 1970.

"It's amazing. It's ultimately an indication of our impact on the natural world," Lambertini said.

- 'Troubled by grief' -

The Ling Planet update, co-authored by more than 40 NGOs and educational institutions, outlines ways to capture and reverse the harms of human use.

The study, published in the journal Nature, found that reducing food waste and favoring healthier and more environmentally friendly foods could help "turn the tide".

The authors suggest that, in conjunction with basic conservation efforts, these measures could save up to two-thirds of future biodiversity loss.

"We need to act now. Biodiversity recovery rates are generally much slower than recent biodiversity loss," said David Leclere, lead study author and research scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.

"This indicates that any delay in action will contribute to further damage to biodiversity, which could take decades to restore."

Leclere also warned of "irreversible" losses to biodiversity, such as when a species becomes extinct.

Like public talk about climate change, societies are increasingly concerned about the link between planetary health and human well-being, Lambertini said.

"The grief of losing power has made people really upset," he said.

"We still have a moral obligation to adapt to life on the planet, but now there is this new element affecting our society, our economy and, indeed, our health."


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