The average size of wildlife populations has fallen by more than two-thirds in less than 50 years due to deforestation and frantic over-consumption, experts said Thursday in a strong warning to save nature to save ourselves.
Human activity has severely degraded three-quarters of the world’s land and 40 percent of the world’s oceans, and the accelerating destruction of nature is likely to have untold health and livelihoods, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said in its annual report on the living planet. .
The Living Planet Index, which tracks more than 4,000 vertebrate species, warns that growing deforestation and agricultural expansion are the main drivers of the average 68 percent population decline between 1
“It’s an accelerating decline that we’ve seen for 30 years and it’s still going in the wrong direction,” WWF Director General Marco Lambertini told AFP.
“In 2016, we documented a 60% decline, now we have a 70% decline.
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“It’s all just for a moment compared to the millions of years many species have lived on the planet,” Lambertini added.
The report, a collaboration between WWF International and the London Zoological Society, warns that the continuing loss of natural habitats increases the risk of future pandemics as humans expand more and more in contact with wildlife.
The last half decade has seen unprecedented economic growth, supported by an explosion in global consumption of natural resources.
While by 1970 humanity’s environmental footprint was less than Earth’s ability to regenerate resources, WWF now estimates that humans are more than half the planet’s capacity.
The report, contributed by about 125 experts, says that of the more than 4,000 vertebrate species studied, those living in freshwater have fallen 84 percent.
Other severely affected wildlife include the eastern lowland gorillas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the African gray parrot in Ghana.
Scientists say the rapid rate of deforestation is also a major factor in the spread of zoonotic diseases – which are transmitted from animals to humans – including the new coronavirus.
“With deforestation and increasing interactions between wildlife, livestock and humans, there is a greater chance of spreading zoonotic diseases like Ebola, like COVID-19,” Fran Price, WWF’s world forestry leader, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“Forests really act as buffers to keep these diseases away from humans – and the more we destroy them, the more likely we are to deploy something that could have a terrible impact on humanity.”
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If the world continues to operate as usual over the next decade, wildlife losses will take decades to reverse and the chances of some species reviving will be reduced, Price said.
She called for bolder commitments and efforts by governments and corporations to make global supply chains more sustainable.
Consumers also need to understand the impact of their shopping habits on nature and buy more responsibly, she added.
Reducing the impact of climate change
Separately, researchers at Oxford University said on Thursday that natural solutions – such as reforestation and mangrove forests – are key to reducing the impact of climate change.
In what they said was the first systematic review of evidence of natural solutions around the world, they found that almost 60 percent of such initiatives alleviate climate pressures such as floods, soil erosion and loss of food production.
“It’s not just about planting trees and removing greenhouse gases,” said Alexander Shoson, author of the study.
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“In many cases, interventions in nature can help communities adapt to the wave of climate change impacts we have seen in recent months, from record heat waves to fires and hurricanes,” she said in a statement.
The WWF report includes 20 essays by experts from China to Mexico, ranging from young activists, authors and academics to business leaders, journalists and local leaders.
Among them, the respected British naturalist David Attenborough called on people to “work with nature, not against it.”