‘Ex­plod­ing’ con­sump­tion be­hind shock 60 per cent de­cline in wildlife in 40 years

The National - News - - NEWS WORLD - JAMIE PREN­TIS

Earth’s wildlife pop­u­la­tion has de­clined by 60 per cent in just 40 years, a re­port by the World Wide Fund for Na­ture re­vealed.

The “ex­plod­ing hu­man con­sump­tion” of en­ergy, land and wa­ter are forc­ing the “un­prece­dented” plan­e­tary change, the re­port said. While cli­mate change was also cited as a fac­tor, the over­ex­ploita­tion of species, agri­cul­ture and land con­ver­sion were most re­spon­si­ble. About three quar­ters of all land was found to now be sig­nif­i­cantly af­fected by hu­man­ity.

The re­port said the cur­rent bio­di­ver­sity loss was so ex­treme it re­sem­bled only that seen dur­ing mass ex­tinc­tions.

The WWF called for a dra­matic move be­yond a com­pla­cent, “busi­ness as usual” view­point or the de­cline would con­tinue. It urged a new, global agree­ment be­tween gov­ern­ments, busi­nesses, re­search and civil so­ci­ety to seize the op­por­tu­nity and ramp up mo­men­tum.

The re­port said only re­cently had busi­nesses and gov­ern­ments started to re­alise how re­liant all eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity was on the nat­u­ral environment. It warned of se­vere macroe­co­nomic reper­cus­sions un­less poli­cies were im­ple­mented.

Fresh wa­ter, for ex­am­ple, was in­creas­ingly threat­ened by habi­tat mod­i­fi­ca­tion, frag­men­ta­tion and de­struc­tion, in­va­sive species, over­fish­ing, pol­lu­tion, dis­ease and cli­mate change. An­i­mal pop­u­la­tions liv­ing in wa­ter have de­clined by 83 per cent.

Un­less hu­man­ity col­lec­tively pulled to­gether the sit­u­a­tion would only worsen, to the detri­ment of hu­man­ity, the di­rec­tor gen­eral of the con­ser­va­tion or­gan­i­sa­tion said.

“Few peo­ple have had the chance to find them­selves on the cusp of a truly his­toric

trans­for­ma­tion. Our planet is at a cross­roads and we have the op­por­tu­nity to de­cide the path ahead,” Marco Lam­ber­tini wrote in WWF’s Liv­ing Planet Index.

“There is no ex­cuse for in­ac­tion. We can no longer ig­nore the warn­ing signs; do­ing so would be at our own peril. What we need now is the will to act – and act quickly.”

The index tracks the state of the planet’s bio­di­ver­sity by mea­sur­ing the pop­u­la­tion den­sity of fish, birds, mam­mals, am­phib­ians and rep­tiles.

Ar­eas worst af­fected in the index, which tracked about 16,000 species be­tween 1970 and 2014, were South and Cen­tral Amer­ica, which showed an 89 per cent loss.

“While this de­pen­dence on na­ture is self-ev­i­dent to many, im­por­tant de­ci­sions made in board­rooms, fi­nance min­istries and pres­i­den­tial of­fices rarely re­flect this,” said Tony Ju­niper, WWF ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor for ad­vo­cacy and cam­paigns.

The re­search showed how re­liant health, well-be­ing, food sup­ply, wealth and se­cu­rity were on fauna.

“It is eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and the growth of the world’s mid­dle classes, not pop­u­la­tion rise per se, that is dra­mat­i­cally in­flu­enc­ing the rate of change of Earth’s life-sup­port sys­tem,” said Owen Gaffney, from the Stock­holm Re­silience Cen­tre.

“These ex­po­nen­tial health, knowl­edge and stan­dard-of-liv­ing im­prove­ments ... have come at a huge cost to the sta­bil­ity of the nat­u­ral sys­tems that sus­tain us.”

De­spite these damn­ing find­ings, the re­port stressed there was still hope. Sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment goals, the Paris Agree­ment and Con­ven­tion on Bi­o­log­i­cal Di­ver­sity showed the world is at­tempt­ing to change di­rec­tion.

AFP

The World Wide Fund for Na­ture says polluted rivers are a ma­jor cause of the large drop in fresh­wa­ter species pop­u­la­tions

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