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Global Wildlife Populations Suffer Catastrophic Collapse

This article is published in collaboration with Statista

by Niall McCarthy

The World Wildlife Fund has released a major new report showing that global wildlife populations have declined catastrophically over the past 50 years and that nature continues to be destroyed by humans at a rate unprecedented in history. The Living Planet Index tracked 20,811 populations of 4,392 vertebrate species and it recorded a 68 percent decline between 1970 and 2016. Over-consumption by humans is primarily to blame, particularly deforestation and agricultural expansion.

The worst impact was seen in Central and South America where wildlife populations have fallen 94 percent since 1970 with the conversion of grasslands, savannahs, forests and wetlands, the overexploitation of species, climate change, and the introduction of alien species are all to blame. During the same period, Africa's wildlife populations fell 65 percent as a reult of changes in land and sea use, as well as species overexploitation. The decline was 45 percent in the Asia Pacific region, 33 percent in North America and 24 percent in Europe and Central Asia. The impact of man isn't just being felt on land and the research found that freshwater species populations fell 84 percent while 75 percent of fish stocks are overexploited in the planet's oceans.

Commenting on the report's findings, WWF International director general Marco Lambertini said that "at a time when the world is reeling from the deepest global disruption and health crisis of a lifetime, this year’s Living Planet Report provides unequivocal and alarming evidence that nature is unravelling and that our planet is flashing red warning signs of vital natural systems failure". He continued by saying the research "clearly outlines how humanity’s increasing destruction of nature is having catastrophic impacts not only on wildlife populations but also on human health and all aspects of our lives". Lambertini also said that it isn't too late to put things right but that "world leaders must take urgent action to protect and restore nature as the foundation for a healthy society and a thriving economy".

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