The Zoological Society of London and WWF published a huge wake up call for humanity, showing that human society is responsible for a shocking 58 per cent drop in the globe’s wildlife population in the last 40 years.
The landmark study shows that while the number of humans has more than doubled, the number of wild animals has more than halved, meaning we need 1.6 Earths to provide the natural resources we require at our current rate of consumption.
The Living Planet Assessment, the world’s most comprehensive survey of our planet’s health to date, shows that global vertebrate populations are on course to decline by an average of 67 per cent from 1970 levels by the end of this decade.
It will take urgent action to reduce humanity’s impact on global ecosystems and put a stop to the annual two percent decline in fish, bird, mammal, amphibian and reptile populations.
Coupled with climate change, it is deforestation, pollution, over-fishing and the illegal wildlife trade that is having irreversible ramifications for our natural world.
Dr Mike Barrett, head of science and policy at WWF, told the BBC:
It’s pretty clear under ‘business as usual’ we will see continued declines in these wildlife populations. But I think now we’ve reached a point where there isn’t really any excuse to let this carry on…We know what the causes are and we know the scale of the impact that humans are having on nature and on wildlife populations – it really is now down to us to act.
For the first time since the demise of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, we face a global mass extinction of wildlife. We ignore the decline of other species at our peril – for they are the barometer that reveals our impact on the world that sustains us. Humanity’s misuse of natural resources is threatening habitats, pushing irreplaceable species to the brink and threatening the stability of our climate.
Professor Ken Norris, Director of Science at ZSL said:
Food production to meet the needs of an expanding human population is a key driver of the over-fishing, hunting and destruction of habitats that is causing biodiversity loss. The Living Planet Report details the enormous strain agriculture places on freshwater systems, accounting for 70 per cent of water use and a substantial loss of wetlands. While large food industry interests have demonstrated they can feed the world, the report makes clear that the challenge now is to do so sustainably.
Barrett called the UK government to act at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and take an increasing responsibility for our global footprint.
Humanity’s impact on Earth is now so profound that this year, a new geological epoch needs to be declared – the Anthropocene.
If we do not take action soon, we are in danger of losing some of nature’s most beautiful creations at the hands of man-made society.