How Did Half of the World’s Wildlife Vanish in 40 Years?

The Earth has lost half the population of all its wildlife since 1970. What has caused the decline, and what can we do to address the consequences?

The animal population on the globe has more than halved in the past 40 years, according to a new report by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Their Living Planet Index, which tracks population trends among species, has revealed that humans have been putting an unsustainable demand on the planet.

Apparently, humans will need one-and-a-half Earths to keep up with current demands.

 

Image courtesy of World Wildlife Fund for Nature.

The decline of 52% of the world’s wildlife in the past 40 years can be broken down into 3 separate categories. (Image: courtesy of World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF))

The report, which is released every two years, issued its most stern warning yet on the risks associated with wildlife decline.

The index pulls from the WWF database of 3,000 animal species of vertebrates and found that their global populations deceased 52 percent from 1970 to 2010, which the report notes was “a much bigger decrease than has been reported previously.”

What is causing the stark population change? Humans, specifically development, which causes habitat loss and degradation, over-hunting and fishing, as well as climate change.

This frightening image shows the role that humans have played in population decline of the worlds wildlife. Image courtesy of World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF).

This frightening image shows the role that humans have played in population decline of the world’s wildlife. (Image: courtesy of World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF))

The consequences of the man-made decline are frightening. Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International, said that the threat to oceans, specifically the global fishing economy, could create up to $428 billion in losses in the next 40 years.

While some scientists question some of the methods that the WWF has used for their new study (such as grouping various species into one category), the results still have many worried. By some estimates, humans are accelerating species extinction 1,000 times faster than it would naturally occur.

Carter Roberts, CEO of WWF in the United States, calls this report “a very loud wake-up call.” He notes: “As we lose natural capital, people lose the ability to feed themselves and to provide for their families—it increases instability exponentially. When that happens, it ceases to be a local problem and becomes a global one.”

See the news video above for more.

As few as 3,200 Tiger exist in the wild today. (Patrick Bouquet/Flickr)

As few as 3,200 Tiger exist in the wild today. (Image: Patrick Bouquet/Flickr)

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