Wildlife Populations Plummet
Global animal, bird and fish populations have plummeted more than two-thirds in less than 50 years due to rampant over-consumption, experts said Thursday in a stark warning to save nature in order to save ourselves.
Human activity has severely degraded three quarters of all land and 40 percent of Earth’s oceans, and our quickening destruction of nature is likely to have untold consequences on our health and livelihoods.
The Living Planet Index, which tracks more than 4,000 species of vertebrates, warned that increasing deforestation and agricultural expansion were the key drivers behind a 68 percent average decline in populations between 1970 and 2016.
It warned that continued natural habitat loss increased the risk of future pandemics as humans expand their presence into ever closer contact with wild animals.
The last half-decade has seen unprecedented economic growth underpinned by an explosion in global consumption of natural resources.
Whereas until 1970, humanity’s ecological footprint was smaller than the Earth’s capacity to regenerate resources, the WWF now calculates we are over using the planet’s capacity by more than half.
While aided by factors such as invasive species and pollution, the biggest single driver of species lost is land-use changes: normally, industry converting forests or grasslands into farms.
This takes an immense toll on wild species, who lose their homes.
But it also requires unsustainable levels of resources to uphold: one third of all land mass and three quarters of all freshwater are now dedicated to producing food.
The picture is equally dire in the ocean, where 75 percent of fish stocks are over exploited.
And while wildlife is declining rapidly, species are disappearing faster in some places than others.
The index showed that the tropical regions of Central and South America had seen a 94 percent fall in species since 1970.
A rare species of dog that can sing, or more accurately yodel, has been rediscovered in the wild in the remote highlands of the Indonesian part of New Guinea.
The howls of the canines have been compared to the calls of humpback whales. There are about 200 captive descendants of the eight dogs that were gathered in the 1970s, but they are now seriously inbred.
While none have been seen in the wild for half a century, a new expedition returned to the capture site and found 15 of the wild dogs there are genetically similar enough to their captive cousins to provide them fresh genes.