Wildlife Populations Have Plummeted Nearly 70% In Just 46 Years
Wildlife populations have plummeted by nearly 70% over the course of the last 46 years.
In a new essay for the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Living Planet Report, Sir David Attenborough warned that humanity needs to make dramatic and ‘systemic’ changes in order to protect biodiversity.
In the report, it was stated that mammal, bird, fish, amphibian and reptile populations fell by an average of 68% in the years between 1970 and 2016.
Factors such as intensive agriculture, deforestation and conversion of wild spaces into farmland were found to be among the main contributors towards biodiversity loss, while over-fishing is said to be ‘wreaking havoc with marine life’.
In his essay, Sir David warned nature should not be seen as being an optional extra that’s ‘nice to have’, urging people to acknowledge nature as the ‘single greatest ally we have in restoring balance to our world’.
Sir David explained how humans have now moved beyond the ‘Holocene’ age, which marked the past 10,000 years of climatic stability. This age ‘allowed humans to settle, farm and create civilisations’, and meant humans could create the society we see around us today.
Multinational businesses, international co-operation and the striving for higher ideals are all possible because for millennia, on a global scale, nature has largely been predictable and stable.
The broadcaster went on to remark that he ‘will die in a quite different geological age’, known as ‘The Anthropocene’. According to Sir David, this is ‘the age when humans dominated the earth. The age when innumerable natural connections were broken’.
It’s not yet fully understood what this new age will mean for us, however Sir David noted that it is still possible to bring about greater climatic stability if human beings are prepared to make ‘systemic shifts’ in areas such as food production and consumption, energy, ocean conservation and our use of natural resources.
The report factors in specific species and particular populations which are faring better than others during this decline, explaining:
The models are all telling us the same thing: that we still have an opportunity to flatten, and reverse, the loss of nature if we take urgent and unprecedented conservation action and make transformational changes in the way we produce and consume food.
[…] To feed and fuel our 21st century lifestyles, we are overusing the Earth’s biocapacity by at least 56%.
It was found that leatherback turtle populations may have declined by as much as 98% in certain areas, with African elephant populations living in the Central African Republic falling by the same figure. In the UK, grey partridge populations were hit the hardest, showing a decline of 85%.
The new report draws from data from the Living Planet Index, produced by ZSL, and makes for a sobering read.
Director of Conservation, Dr Andrew Terry, explained that the research team had tracked data on 20,811 populations from a total of 4,392 vertebrate species, describing the average decline as ‘catastrophic, and clear evidence of the damage human activity is doing to the natural world.’
Dr Terry warned that populations will ‘undoubtedly’ continue dropping unless humans take urgent action, supporting conservation efforts to stop mass extinctions.
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