WWF Report Suggests Humans Have Wiped Out 60 Per Cent Of All Wildlife
Posted on November 23rd 2018
A major report produced by WWF suggests that 60 per cent of all species of wildlife, including mammals, birds, fish and reptiles have been wiped out by humans. Rather unsurprisingly leading conservationists are warning that this human induced mass extinction is an emergency that threatens our own species itself. The WWF report was produced in collaboration with 59 scientists from all over the world and found the cause of the massacre is the direct consequence of huge and increasing food and natural resource consumption.
The irony is that as the global population increases it grows increasingly dependent on clean air, water and the web of life. Ecosystems that took billions of years to develop and that we depend on for our survival are being destroyed. Mike Barrett of WWF says to get a sense of just how badly we have damaged the planet, had there been an equivalent 60 per cent drop in the human population, it would amount to the continents of North & South America, Africa, Europe as well as China and Oceania being completely emptied.
Human survival at stake
Mr Barrett adds that the crisis is no longer simply about conserving species that may go extinct so that future generations will be able to enjoy them. We are now in a situation where the survival of the human race is at stake. It is not just about it being nice to have a spot of nature to enjoy, these ecosystems and their species support civilisation itself. Experts warn that time is running out. They say that the only way to ensure humanity’s future on this planet is by dealing with ecosystems and climate change.
Human induced mass extinction
Scientists think that we are at the dawn of the sixth mass extinction, only this time, it is one driven by a single species known as homo sapiens rather than exogenous factors such as ice ages or asteroids. Other studies suggest that since civilisation first developed, humans have destroyed 83 per cent of all mammals and half of the earth’s plants. Even if we were able to stop the destruction immediately, for the planet to recover, it would take anywhere between 5 to 7 million years.
Living Planet Index
WWF and the Zoological Society of London produce the Living Planet Index which tracks more than 4,000 species to measure the decline of wildlife populations. In the time period between 1970 and 2014 populations tanked by an average of 60 per cent. Just to get a sense of how fast the decline is happening, just four years ago, that figure stood at 52 per cent. Despite being more aware of our impact on the environment, the crash in wildlife populations continues to rage.
Species destruction as great a threat as climate change
It is no secret that human beings need wildlife and healthy ecosystems to survive and many experts say that the mass destruction of the natural world is just as great a threat as climate change. Nature nourishes humans not only through the distribution of food, water and energy, but it is also system that regulates the planet’s climate, pollution levels, pollination and floods. The Living Planet Index demonstrates the fact that the large-scale destruction of nature is simply unacceptable and threatens the survival of the human race both in the present and the future.
Food production the main cause
The main reason for loss of wildlife is habitat destruction. Ecosystems are being to destroyed to give way to farmland. 75 per cent of all land on the planet is now significantly impacted by the activities of humans. Another major reason behind the loss is hunting wildlife for food, with the oceans being overfished due to industrial fishing techniques and at least 300 mammals having been eaten to oblivion. Chemical pollution is also a serious problem. Half of all killer whales in the oceans will perish as a consequence of PCB contamination.
South and Central America are the parts of the world that have been worst affected. In that region more than 89% of vertebrate populations have disappeared in response to the clearing of massive areas of forest that are rich in biodiversity and wildlife. Every couple of months an area equivalent to the size of Greater London is cleared in the tropical savannah known as Cerraddo. This perfectly illustrates the forces at play. Forest is being cleared for human consumption. The deforestation is driven by the need to produce soy which is exported to countries to be used to feed chicken and pigs.
We need to eat less meat
The ecosystems which have been on the receiving end of the greatest damage are our rivers and lakes. In these habitats, wildlife populations have fallen by a shocking 83 per cent thanks to the enormous demand for agriculture and extensive building of dams. This is yet another illustration of the direct link between our food supply chain and the mass destruction of wildlife. If we are to at least try to stem the tide, then the only way to do so is for humans to consume less meat.
Conservation can work
The Living Planet Index is not without its critics. They say that it is not representative and is far too broad a measure of wildlife loss that ignores important details. Even if we accept that criticism, experts say all other indicators such as extinction rates to the loss of sustainable ecosystems has been massive and they all tell the same story. Conservation efforts have paid off. For example, the number of wild tigers in India has risen by 20 per cent in just six years whilst giant panda numbers and otter populations have also started to stage a recovery.
We cannot ignore this problem
Marco Lambertini WWF International director general says the root cause of the problem is consumption and it is not possible anymore to ignore the impact of unsustainable food production and lifestyles that are wasteful. In 2020 the countries of the world will meet to discuss the issue at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. It is expected that during the meeting, participating states will make new commitments towards protecting nature. It is important for a global agreement to be reached and there is a window of opportunity of just two years to achieve it in order for humans and nature to stand a chance. This is the first generation of humans to be aware that we are destroying the planet, ironically this also means we are the last generation that can do something about it.