WWF report paints a bleak picture of biodiversity

Monarch Butterfly (BlackburnNews.com photo by Dave Dentinger)

According to a new report by the World Wide Fund for Nature Conservation, wildlife populations around the world fell by almost 60 per cent in just four decades.

The 12th annual Living Planet Index measured populations of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, and reptiles globally and said in a few years populations will have declined by two-thirds since 1970.

The waters of Lake Erie are seen along the beach in Erieau on August 24, 2014. (Photo by Ricardo Veneza)

The waters of Lake Erie, August 24, 2014. (Photo by Ricardo Veneza)

The report says freshwater species, of particular concern for Great Lakes fisheries, are down 81 per cent.

The results are even more severe in South and Central America, and the Caribbean, where populations have dropped an astounding 89 per cent.

A summary of the report says it looked at more than just population trend data. It also looked at the Species Habitat Index which measures changes in species distribution, the International Union of Conservation of Nature Red List Index tracking extinction risks, and the Biodiversity Intactness Index measuring community composition. “All these paint the same picture, that of continued biodiversity loss,” read the summary.

The Earth Day Network reports the “normal rate of species extinction is one to five species per year. Scientists estimate now we’re losing species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the normal rate.”

“We have known for many years that we are driving the planet to the brink,” said WWF International Director General Marco Lambertini. “The astonishing decline in wildlife populations — is a grim reminder and perhaps the ultimate indicator of the pressure we exert on the planet.”

Canada may have fared better than other countries, but by no means were Canadian species unaffected. The index says half of the species in Canada saw a decline, and of those populations that fell, the dip was by 83 per cent. Even protected at-risk species showed no sign of improvement.

BlackburnNews.com photo

While climate change plays a role in the loss of biodiversity, the report says the bigger culprit is runaway human consumption.

Since 1970 the world’s population has almost doubled; from 3.7 billion to 7.2 billion today. The world’s global economy has jumped from an estimated $3 trillion US in 1950 to $80 trillion US now, and humans have modified most of the Earth’s landmass; only a quarter remains unmodified, and 15.4 per cent is protected.