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Population Sizes Decline

Between 1970 and 2016, there has been a 68% decline in species population sizes.

68% Decline in Species Population Sizes Since 1970- WWF

October 27, 2020 - Chelsea Lee

A global WWF report has found that the population sizes of mammals, fish, birds, reptiles and amphibians has declined by an average of 68% between 1970 and 2016. 

In Latin America and the Caribbean, population sizes have shrunk the most at 94%! Freshwater species around the world have also been impacted significantly, declining by 84%.

According to The Living Planet Report 2020, this terrible drop in population sizes shows a “broken relationship between the humans and the natural world.” The WWF-US President and CEO, Carter Roberts points out that as humans continue to expand into “once-wild places,” species populations will continue to be largely affected. We are also fuelling the effects of the climate crisis and increasing the risk of zoonotic diseases like COVID-19. So “it’s time to restore our broken relationship with nature for the benefit of species and people alike.”

Over the last 50 years, the rapid growth of human consumption, population, global trade and urbanisation has resulted in humanity using more of the Earth’s resources than it can restore naturally. The overuse of resources has led to severe biodiversity loss through land-use change, particularly the conversion of habitats like forests, grasslands and mangroves into agricultural systems such as farmlands for cattle and crops. In the next few decades, the climate crisis will become a significant contributor to the devastation of biodiversity loss.

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However, it is not too late! Climate models show that the declining population trend can be reversed with immediate actions, including transforming food production and consumption, aggressive actions to tackle the climate crisis and investments that conserve, protect and restore nature. 

The report urges world leaders to treat biodiversity conservation as a vital and strategic investment to preserve human health, wealth and security.

Although the trend of biodiversity loss is alarming, there are reasons to stay optimistic, says WWF Global Chief Scientist, Rebecca Shaw. There are a growing number of young climate activists and conservationists calling for climate action as younger generations are becoming more aware of the link between the planet’s health and their own futures. It is important to continue fighting for “a just and sustainable planet.”

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