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October 30, 2018 - The Vegan Authority


Population plummets 60% for over 16,000 species due to human activity

Population plummets 60% for over 16,000 species due to human activity
Tree FrogFile Photo / © Photabulous!

"We are driving our planet to the very brink" reports Marco Lambertini, the Director General of the World Wildlife (WWF) International. We stand at a "crossroads".

Human activity is responsible for decimating global wildlife at an alarming rate. Well over half the world's population of vertebrates, from fish to birds to mammals have been wiped out since 1970, according to the 2018 edition of the WWF Living Planet Report, released Monday.

In just two generations, our anthropocentric impact on earth's ecosystem and its non-human inhabitants has reduced species counts by an average of 60% among 16,700 wildlife populations around the world, based on the WWF's Living Planet Index, first published 20 years ago.

Habitat loss and degradation, as well as overexploitation of wildlife, pollution and climate change are all contributors to the decline. 

The Anthropocene

Human-induced change is so great, in fact, that many scientists believe we are entering a new geological epoch: the Anthropocene. Humans are in effect changing earth's eco-system and this new geological epoch is not currently stable.

“Earth is losing biodiversity at a rate seen only during mass extinctions,” the report says. These human-driven changes are so severe that scientists believe we may be inducing a mass extinction event.

"In the last 50 years, global average temperature has risen at 170 times the background rate 31. Ocean acidification may be occurring at a rate not seen in at least 300 million years 43. Earth is losing biodiversity at a rate seen only during mass extinctions 44. And still more change may be headed our way as people are responsible for releasing 100 billion tonnes of carbon into the Earth system every 10 years 45."

It will be the first time in earth's history that a single species - homo sapiens - has had such a powerful effect on earth's life support system.

Tracking the populations of greater than 4,000 mammal, bird, fish, reptile and amphibian species, the WWF researchers found threatening declines between 1970 and 2014, thought to be directly linked to human activity. Species are disappearing due to habitat loss and degradation, as well as overexploitation of wildlife, pollution and climate change, the Living Planet Report 2018 says.

“This report sounds a warning shot across our bow. Natural systems essential to our survival – forests, oceans, and rivers – remain in decline. Wildlife around the world continue to dwindle,” Carter Roberts, President and CEO of WWF-US, said in a statement.

At the crossroads

Science and a growing awareness that we need to find solutions have provided us with the "means to redefine our relationship with the planet". This is not only about securing the many threatened non-human species. "There cannot be a healthy, happy and prosperous future for people on a planet with a destabilized climate, depleted oceans and rivers, degraded land and empty forests, all stripped of biodiversity, the web of life that sustains us all."

A new deal is urgently needed for our environment and the species that make it their habitat, while we still "have the opportunity to decide the path ahead."

"Today, we still have a choice. We can be the founders of a global movement that changed our relationship with the planet, that saw us secure a future for all life on Earth, including our own. Or we can be the generation that had its chance and failed to act; that let Earth slip away. The choice is ours. Together we can make it happen for nature and for people."

This latest WWF report comes on the heels of a landmark U.N. report issued earlier this month where the U.N. warned climate change poses “an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet” that will “require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”

Related: Is Planet Earth Dying?


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