Wednesday, October 26, 2016

World on path to lose two-thirds of wildlife populations in one lifetime

Canada NewsWire
TORONTO, Oct. 26, 2016 /CNW/ -

Global wildlife populations face a plunge of more than two thirds during the 50-year period ending in 2020 as a result of human activities, according to WWF's Living Planet Report 2016 released today. The report, produced in collaboration with the Zoological Society of London, shows how people are overpowering the planet for the first time in Earth's history, and highlights the changes needed in the way society is fed, fuelled and financed.

According to the report, global populations of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles have already declined by 58 per cent between 1970 and 2012, the most recent year with available data. At this trajectory, the decline could reach 67 per cent by 2020.


Key findings

Wildlife are disappearing at an unprecedented rate, with:

  • A 38 per cent decline in land-based populations.
  • A 36 per cent decline in ocean-based populations.
  • An 81 per cent decline in freshwater populations.

The biggest threats to species are:

  • Loss and degradation of habitat (through agriculture and logging, and man-made changes to freshwater systems).
  • Overexploitation (through overfishing, hunting and poaching).
  • Invasive species and disease.
  • Pollution.
  • Growing climate change impact.

Humans are exceeding planetary boundaries:

  • The resources of 1.6 planets each year are used to provide the goods and services consumed annually. The bigger the ecological footprint, the greater the pressure on ecosystems and biodiversity, and the greater the risk of biodiversity loss.
  • The Earth is being pushed into uncharted territory, with humanity now violating planetary boundaries that act as safe thresholds for nine critical system processes that maintain life on Earth. Those already pushed past safe limits include climate, biosphere integrity, biogeochemical flows (nitrogen and phosphorous) and land-system change (such as conversion of forests to agricultural land). Some assessments suggest freshwater use has also passed a safe threshold.

To protect biodiversity, the Living Planet Report 2016 identified the following critical changes as needed:

  • A transition to 100 per cent sustainable and renewable energy sources; speed is a key factor for determining our future.
  • Business models that incorporate the true costs of environmental damage into decision making.
  • A food system with less waste along the food chain, fewer chemical and fossil inputs, significantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions and a shift to less animal protein.

Natural ecosystems keep the air breathable, the water drinkable and provide nutritious food. But their complexity, diversity and resilience are rapidly falling due to human activities. This threatens all species, including people, unless we act now.


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