The top threats to species are directly linked to human activities, including habitat loss, degradation and overexploitation of wildlife, the WWF report says. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint
The top threats to species are directly linked to human activities, including habitat loss, degradation and overexploitation of wildlife, the WWF report says. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint

Global wildlife population declines by 58% in 42 years since 1970: WWF report

The planet is entering an unchartered territory in its history in which humanity is shaping changes on the Earth, including a possible sixth mass extinction, says a WWF report

New Delhi: Global wildlife population, including that of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles, have declined by 58% between 1970 and 2012 as a result of human activities and the number could reach nearly two-third, or 67%, by 2020, said a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report released on Thursday.

The ‘WWF’s Living Planet Report 2016’ report highlights the magnitude of human impact on the planet and highlights the changes needed in the way society is fed and fuelled. The report tracks over 14,000 vertebrate populations of over 3,700 species between 1970 and 2012.

It said that the planet is entering completely unchartered territory in its history in which humanity is shaping changes on the Earth, including a possible sixth mass extinction. Researchers are already calling this period the Anthropocene, an era in which human activities are influencing changes in the climate and the environment.

It said that the top threats to species are directly linked to human activities, including habitat loss, degradation and overexploitation of wildlife.

The report stated that India ranks fifth in terms of bio-capacity—an ecosystem’s capacity to produce resources such as food, fibre and renewable raw materials and absorb carbon dioxide.

“While Indians have a low personal footprint at an individual level, it is a challenge when aggregated by population size. This equation will be further affected as wealth grows and consumption patterns change. India’s carbon footprint currently makes up 53% of the country’s overall Ecological Footprint," the report highlighted.

“Wildlife is disappearing within our lifetimes at an unprecedented rate. This is not just about the wonderful species we all love … biodiversity forms the foundation of healthy forests, rivers and oceans. Take away species, and these ecosystems will collapse along with the clean air, water, food and climate services that they provide us. We have the tools to fix this problem and we need to start using them now if we are serious about preserving a living planet for our own survival and prosperity," said Dr Marco Lambertini, international director-general, WWF.

The report states that food production to meet the complex demands of an expanding human population is the primary factor responsible for the destruction of habitats and overexploitation of wildlife. At present, agriculture occupies about one-third of the Earth’s total land area and accounts for almost 70 % of water use.

“Our consumption patterns and the way we look at our natural world are constantly shaping the future of our planet. At WWF-India we believe that the power to build a resilient planet for future generations lies in our understanding of how we are moving into this new epoch that scientists are calling the Anthropocene and adopting sustainable practices that decrease humanity’s impacts on the planet. We need to come together as a global community and address the threats to biodiversity to protect our environment, as well as our economic and social structures," said Ravi Singh, secretary general and chief executive of WWF-India.

However, the report said that 2020 is also a year of great promise as in that year, commitments made under the Paris climate deal will kick in, and the first environmental actions under the globe’s new sustainable development plan are due.

“If implemented, these measures, along with meeting international biodiversity targets set for 2020, can help achieve the reforms needed in the world’s food and energy systems to protect wildlife across the globe," it added.

The report stressed that humans need to rethink how they produce, consume, and value the natural environment.

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