Home / World / Animal populations around the world have declined by nearly 70 percent in just 50 years, a new report says

Animal populations around the world have declined by nearly 70 percent in just 50 years, a new report says

It is impossible to deny it: humans are destroying the natural environment at an unprecedented and alarming rate. According to a new report released on Tuesday, animal populations they have fallen by such a staggering amount that only a review of the world’s economic systems could reverse the damage.

Nearly 21,000 monitored populations of mammals, fish, birds, reptiles and amphibians, which include nearly 4,400 species worldwide, declined by an average of 68% between 1970 and 2016, according to the World Wildlife Fund’s Living Planet Report 2020. Species in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as global freshwater habitats, have been disproportionately affected, decreasing, on average, by 94% and 84%, respectively.

Every two years, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) publishes its historical report, revealing how much species populations have declined since 1

970, an important indicator for the overall health of ecosystems. The latest report indicates that the population rate is decreasing “signals a fundamentally disrupted relationship between humans and the natural world, the consequences of which – as demonstrated by the continuous Covid-19 pandemic – it can be catastrophic. “

“This report reminds us that we destroy the planet at our peril, because it is our home,” US WWF President and CEO Carter Roberts said in a statement. “As humanity’s footprint expands into once wild places, we are devastating populations of species. But we are also exacerbating climate change and increasing the risk of zoonotic diseases such as COVID-19. We cannot protect humanity from the impacts of environmental destruction. It’s time to restore our broken relationship with nature for the benefit of species and people. “

A donkey is tied up near a burned area of ​​the Amazon rainforest reserve, south of Novo Progresso in the state of Para, on Aug.16, 2020.

CARL DE SOUZA / AFP via Getty Images

The fault lies with human beings

The report blames humans only for the planet’s “disastrous” state. It points to the exponential growth of human consumption, population, global trade and urbanization over the past 50 years as key reasons for the unprecedented decline of the Earth’s resources, which the planet is said to be unable to replenish.

The abuse of these finite resources by at least 56% has had a devastating effect on biodiversity, which is critical to sustaining human life on Earth. “It’s like living on 1.56 Earths,” Mathis Wackernagel, David Lin, Alessandro Galli and Laurel Hanscom of the Global Footprint Network said in the report.

The report points to land use change – in particular, the destruction of habitats such as rainforests for agriculture – as a key factor in biodiversity loss, which accounts for more than half of the loss in Europe, Central Asia, North America, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Much of that land is used for agriculture, responsible for 80% of global deforestation and 70% of freshwater use. Using so much land requires a vast food system that releases 29% of global greenhouse gases, and the excessive amount of land and water people use has killed 70% of terrestrial biodiversity and 50% of water biodiversity. sweet. Many species simply cannot survive the new conditions imposed on them when their habitats are altered by humans.

Destruction of ecosystems has threatened 1 million species – 500,000 animals and plants and 500,000 insects – with extinction, much of which can be prevented with conservation and restoration efforts.

Amazon rainforest fires
Healthy greenery can be found next to a fire-burned field in the Amazon rainforest in the state of Rondonia, Brazil.

Leonardo Carrato / Bloomberg / Getty Images

The food industry needs an overhaul

Where and how humans produce food is one of nature’s biggest threats, the report said. Much of the habitat loss and deforestation that occurs is driven by food production and consumption.

One third of all the earth’s land is used for harvesting and animal husbandry. And of all the water taken from available freshwater resources, 75% is used for crops or livestock. If current habitats remain the same, the researchers predict that cultivated areas may need to be 10-25% larger in 2050 than in 2005, just to meet increased food demand. Such an increase is expected despite more than 820 million people facing it food insecurity, indicating that much of the agricultural stock is being wasted.

Meanwhile, food loss and waste have cost $ 1 trillion in economic costs, $ 700 billion in environmental costs, and about $ 900 billion in social costs, according to the report.

Worldwide, it is estimated that one third of all food produced for humans is lost or wasted – about 1.4 billion tons every year. Food waste is responsible for at least 6% of global greenhouse gas emissions – three times more than those from aviation – and nearly a quarter of these emissions come from food waste.

Holstein-Frisian beef
Cattle at a dairy farm in Saxony on 6 June 2020.

Sebastian Willnow / picture alliance via Getty Images

The role of climate change

Over-exploitation of species, invasive species and disease and pollution are all seen as threats to biodiversity, the report said. However, caused by man climate change it is destined to become, or more important, other factors of biodiversity loss in the coming decades.

Climate change creates an ongoing destructive feedback loop where worsening climate leads to decline in genetic variability, species and population richness, and biodiversity loss negatively affects climate. For example, deforestation leads to an excess of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, warming the planet and exacerbating forest fires.

Only a handful of countries – Russia, Canada, Brazil, and Australia – contain regions without a human footprint. But these wilderness areas are facing irreversible erosion, affecting other species and the ability of humans to adapt to climate change.

According to the report, no part of the ocean is entirely immune to overfishing. pollution, coastal development and other man-made stressors. Humans depend on marine ecosystems to provide food, climate regulation, carbon storage and coastal protection – all of which are impacted by these activities and exacerbated by climate change.

“These places are disappearing before our eyes,” said James Watson of the University of Queensland and WCS, Brooke Williams of the University of Queensland and Oscar Venter of the University of Northern British Columbia.

Polar bear, Repulse Bay, Nunavut, Canada
A polar bear sits on melting sea ice at sunset near Harbor Islands in Canada.

Paul Souders | WorldFoto / Getty Images

The link between people’s health and the planet

Between devastating fires and the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic made it clear that humans and nature have never been so intertwined. The report shows that natural support for human life is rapidly diminishing and that it is up to citizens, governments and business leaders to join a never-before-seen ladder to do something about it.

Experts have expressed concern that many of the biggest improvements in human health over the past 50 years, such as a decrease in the mortality rate and child poverty and an increase in life expectancy, could be canceled or even reversed due to the loss of nature.

The incidence rate of infectious diseases has increased dramatically over the past 80 years and nearly half of these diseases are linked to land use change, agriculture and the food industry. A study cited by the report suggests that diseases native to animals they are responsible for 2.5 billion cases of disease and nearly 3 million deaths each year.

“How humanity chooses to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and how it addresses the looming threats of global environmental change will affect the health of generations to come,” wrote Thomas Pienkowski and Sarah Whitmee of the University of Oxford.

California Wildfires
Firefighters monitor the burning bear fire in Oroville, Calif. On Wednesday, September 9, 2020. The fire, part of the North Complex burned down, has expanded at a critical rate as winds hit the region.

Noah Berger / AP

What can be done?

Similar to the economic crash of 2008, there have been blockages due to the coronavirus pandemic it has reduced humanity’s demand by nearly 10%, a change that experts believe will hardly last without major structural changes.

Although the report paints a tragic picture for the future of the natural world, it urges that current trends can be flattened, and even reversed, with urgent action. It stresses the need for world leaders to overhaul the food production and consumption industries, completely eliminating deforestation from supply chains and making trade more sustainable, among other things.

Only in the last year, natural disasters, from California fires severe droughts in Australia have cost billions of dollars globally. Experts warn that economic decision makers must take into account not only human and product capital, but also natural capital when developing public and private policies.

To feed 10 billion people by 2050, humans will need to adopt a way to eat healthier – both for themselves and for the planet. The risk of food-related diseases is the leading cause of premature mortality globally and food production is the main driver of biodiversity loss and water pollution, also accounting for 20-30% of greenhouse gas emissions.

Experts recommend that humans adopt a diet that consists of a balanced proportion of whole grains, fruits, nuts, vegetables, beans and legumes, with animal products such as fish, eggs, dairy and meat consumed in moderation.

The report calls the above changes “non-negotiable” to preserve human health, wealth and security and urges world leaders to virtually meet for the United Nations General Assembly which begins September 15 to address them – only then will the humans will be able to “bend the curve” of biodiversity loss.

“While the trends are alarming, there is reason to remain optimistic,” said Rebecca Shaw, WWF’s chief global scientist. “The younger generations are becoming acutely aware of the link between planetary health and their future, and are calling for action from our leaders. We must support them in their fight for a just and sustainable planet.”

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