Wildlife populations suffer massive decline in past 50 years

19th October 2022

Web destruction of rainforest credit i Stock 1257301516



Global wildlife populations have dropped by an average of 69% during the past 50 years, according to a major scientific assessment of biodiversity loss.

The biennial Living Planet Report by the WWF and the Zoological Society of London calls on world leaders to reach an ambitious agreement at December’s COP15 biodiversity summit to halt the destruction of nature.

The study, which analyses 32,000 populations of 5,230 animal species, says land-use change is still the biggest threat to nature, destroying or fragmenting natural habitats on land, in freshwater and in the sea. However, if nations are unable to limit global warming to 1.5°C, climate change is likely to become the dominant cause of biodiversity loss in the coming decades, it warns.

Rising temperatures are already driving mass mortality events, as well as the first extinctions of entire species, the assessment says. Every degree of warming is expected to increase these losses and their impact on people.

The latest report warns that rates of deforestation in Latin America and the Amazon are increasing, with 17% of the original forest already lost and another 17% degraded. The research says that the world is “rapidly approaching a tipping point beyond which our largest tropical rainforest will no longer function”.

Latin America and the Caribbean – including the Amazon – has seen the steepest decline in average wildlife population size, plummeting by 94% between 1970 and 2018. Africa saw the second largest fall, at 66%, followed by Asia and the Pacific with 55% and North America at 20%. Europe and Central Asia suffered an 18% decline in wildlife. The total loss is akin to the human population of Europe, the Americas, Africa, Oceania and China disappearing, the study says.

Population trends for monitored freshwater species are also collapsing, with a 83% decline.

Image Credit | iStock


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