The World Wildlife Fund‘s annual Living Planet Report surveys over 10,000 representative populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish. The 2014 report has just been released and it shows populations of wild vertebrate species declined 52 percent between 1970 and 2010. The report points the finger at habitat loss and destruction and the exploitation of animal populations as the primary causes of the die-off. The effects of climate change are also having a significant impact and are anticipated to have an even greater impact in the future. While the WWF admits the report “is not for the faint-hearted,” they hope that the information will prove useful so “humanity can make better choices that translate into clear benefits for ecology, society and the economy today and in the long term.”
The statistical breakdowns in the report are disturbing reading indeed: terrestrial and marine species declined by 39 percent over the 40-year period, while freshwater species declined by 76 percent. For the populations where threats could be identified and monitored, responsibility for population decline was attributed to exploitation 37 percent of the time, habitat degradation or change 31.4 percent of the time, habitat loss 13.4 percent, and climate change 7.1 percent. Other threats identified were invasive species or genes, pollution and disease. To break it down further, including the good news and the bad news, the WWF have produced an excellent infographic showing the impact of human activity on biodiversity.
While the report showed biodiversity is declining in both temperate and tropical regions, the decline is greater in the tropics. There the statistics show a 56 percent reduction in the surveyed populations over the 40-year period. In temperate areas populations declined by 36 percent over the same period. Latin America showed the most dramatic population decline, with a fall of a shocking 83 percent.
The WWF is quickly at pains to point out that loss of biodiversity can be a causal agent for poverty in developing nations, rather than merely a symptom of it as is commonly assumed. “In a world where so many people live in poverty, it may appear as though protecting nature is a luxury. But it is quite the opposite. For many of the world’s poorest people, it is a lifeline. Importantly though, we are all in this together. We all need nutritious food, fresh water and clean air – wherever in the world we live.” Head on over to the WWF website for further information, as well as to download the full report.