Two thirds of the wild animals have disappeared in less than 50 years

(Paris) The world has lost more than two-thirds of its wildlife populations in less than 50 years, mainly due to human activity, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) warns Thursday, pointing to the dangers of this collapse for the future of humanity.

Posted September 9, 2020 at 7:11 PM Updated at 7:13 PM

Stéphane ORJOLLET
France Media Agency

Between 1970 and 2016, 68% of these wildlife disappeared, according to the Living Planet Index, a benchmark tool published every two years by the WWF. The main cause is the destruction of natural habitats, in particular for agriculture, a trend that risks driving new COVID-19 pandemics by bringing humans and animals into contact, leading to the transmission of viruses. from kind to kind. kind.

This index, prepared in collaboration with the Zoological Society of London, takes into account approximately 4,000 vertebrate species, spread over approximately 21,000 animal populations around the world. It registered a new acceleration in the decline of biodiversity, which was 60% at the time of the last reporting in 2018 (period 1970/2014).

“For 30 years we have seen the fall accelerate and it continues in the wrong direction,” summarizes AFP Marco Lambertini, WWF World Director. “We are witnessing the destruction of nature by humanity. […] In fact it is an ecocide ”.

“System error”

All “at the speed of lightning compared to the millions of years since many species have lived on this planet.” Result according to Marco Lambertini: “All lights on our planet are red with the message: system error”.

Because for 50 years, “our world has been transformed by an explosion in global trade, consumption and human population growth,” the report underlines. But these changes, especially deforestation for agricultural purposes, “have taken a tremendous toll on nature” and humanity now exceeds its “biological budget” every year and consumes more than the regenerative capacity of the earth.

In addition, there are the expected effects of global warming, which is also modifying natural habitats and “threatening extinction of up to 20% of wild species by the end of the century”. Such as the fruit bats or “flying foxes”, one of the largest bats in the world, whose populations in Australia are being slaughtered as a result of recurring droughts and heat waves.

The losses amount to 84% for freshwater species (fish, birds, amphibians, mammals, etc.). And some regions are paying a particularly high price: the tropics of Central and Latin America have collapsed by 94%.

“The good news of all this bad news is that we are beginning to understand” that this situation is not sustainable, the WWF chief notes.

And the Living Planet report is accompanied by a glimmer of hope this year, with the simultaneous publication of a study conducted with some 40 other NGOs and research institutes.

Titled “Inflecting the curve” and also published Thursday in the journal Nature, it models a range of possible action scenarios to conserve nature or species, as well as reduce the footprint of agricultural production or human consumption, especially livestock products.

Reverse the decline

“The most ambitious, combining all these interventions, allows us to estimate that it is possible to reverse the decline of biodiversity by 2050,” explains David Leclère, researcher at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) and lead author of the study.

According to the researchers, this “integrated” strategy (which works on different levers) also makes it possible to avoid negative side effects, such as an increase in food prices, such as those that led to “hunger pangs” in certain regions. of the world in the past decade.

Scenarios operating on one or two levers would allow some to reverse the curve, but later, or minimize losses.

But there is an emergency, emphasizes David Leclère. “Any delay in action will lead to further loss of biodiversity.” Ecosystems, however, have “points of no return” beyond which they cannot recover. And an extinct species does that “forever”.

Faced with this situation, “people are starting to worry,” says Marco Lambertini. “We have a moral obligation to live with the planet, but now there is also this new element, the impact on our societies, our economy and, of course, our health.”

And while there should be several major international meetings on biodiversity in 2021 (postponed due to a pandemic), he calls for “ambitious deals with strong commitments and tangible goals”.

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