Saturday 21 September 2019

Global wildlife numbers fall by 60pc due to ‘exploding’ human activity

'We are the last ones that can do anything' - WWF

‘Runaway consumption’: Global wildlife like the black crested macaque has been decimated, say the WWF. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
‘Runaway consumption’: Global wildlife like the black crested macaque has been decimated, say the WWF. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Emily Beament

Global wildlife populations have fallen by 60pc since 1970 as humans overuse natural resources, drive climate change and pollute the planet, a report warns.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has called for an ambitious "global deal" for nature and people, similar to the international Paris Agreement to tackle climate change, as the conservation charity's new report spelled out the damage being done to the natural world.

Only a quarter of the world's land area is free from the affects of human activity and by 2050 that will have fallen to just a 10th, the 'Living Planet Report 2018' said.

The percentage of the world's seabirds with plastic in their stomach is estimated to have increased from 5pc in 1960 to 90pc today, and the world has already lost around half its shallow water corals in just 30 years.

Overall, populations of more than 4,000 species of mammals, reptiles, birds, fish and amphibians have declined by an average of 60pc between 1970 and 2014, the most recent year for which data is available.

Tropical areas have seen the worst declines, with an 89pc fall in populations monitored in Latin America and the Caribbean since 1970.

Tanya Steele: We know we are destroying our planet
Tanya Steele: We know we are destroying our planet

Species which live in fresh water habitats, such as frogs and river fish, have seen global population falls of 83pc, according to the living planet index by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), which tracks the abundance of wildlife.

From hedgehogs and puffins to elephants, rhinos and polar bears, wildlife is in decline, due to the loss of habitats, poaching, pollution of land and seas and rising global temperatures, the 'Living Planet' report warned.

Current action to protect nature is failing because it is not enough to match the scale of the threat facing the planet, the conservationists claim.

"Exploding" levels of human consumption are driving the affect on nature, with over- exploitation of natural resources such as over-fishing, cutting down forests to grow crops such as soy and palm oil and the use of pesticides in agriculture.

Human pollution: A saltwater crocodile with a tyre around its neck in Palu river in Palu, Indonesia. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Human pollution: A saltwater crocodile with a tyre around its neck in Palu river in Palu, Indonesia. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Climate change and plastic pollution are also significant and growing threats.

But wildlife is not just a "nice to have" for humans, the report warned, with human food, health and medicines all relying on natural resources.

All human economic activity ultimately depends on nature, the report said, with globally natural resources estimated to provide services worth $125tn (€110tn) a year.

With the world set to review progress on sustainable development and conserving biodiversity under UN agreements by 2020, there is a window of opportunity in the next two years, the group argued.

A new global deal should be secured, backed by strong commitments from governments and businesses.

WWF chief executive Tanya Steele said: "We are the first generation to know we are destroying our planet and the last one that can do anything about it.

"Our wanton destruction of nature, coupled with the brutal chaos of climate change, is the biggest threat to humanity.

"If we want a world with orangutans and puffins, clean air and enough food for everyone, we need urgent action from leaders and a new global programme of recovery."

Irish Independent

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