World Wildlife Fund Issues Dire Report on Wildlife Populations (from Birding News, Oct.30, 2018)

The World Wildlife Fund on Tuesday released the 12th edition of its Living Planet Report, which it publishes every two years. The report’s Living Planet Index tracks more than 16,000 populations of more than 4,000 vertebrate species and finds that global populations of birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, and amphibians have declined, on average, by 60 percent between 1970 and 2014. During that time, both biodiversity and wildlife abundance have contracted. The report uses five other indices to measure the health of the planet, including the Species Habitat Index and the IUCN Red List Index.

Although the report does not focus on specific bird species, hundreds of bird species were included in their study of population change of 19,000 species. Birds as a group, along with mammals, fish, and reptiles and amphibians, are featured prominently in charts and maps documenting threats (habitat loss, resource exploitation, invasive species and disease, pollution, and climate change) globally and by biogeographic region, and population trends. The Living Planet Index is closely intertwined with the IUCN Red List, which includes 92 percent of the world’s known bird species.

The effects of overexploitation of natural resources and agriculture leading to habitat loss, climate change, pollution, and other human impacts have taken a measurable toll on oceans, rivers, forests, and other habitats in the past four decades. Human consumption is indicted for the toll it has taken on deforestation and other land-use change, overfishing, and pollution. The report estimates that 90 percent of the world’s seabirds have fragments of plastic in their stomachs compared to only 5 percent in 1960.

While the report undeniably paints a bleak picture of the future for birds, other wildlife, and humans, it also calls for action. “The statistics are scary, but all hope is not lost,” says Ken Norris, director of science at the Zoological Society of London. “We have an opportunity to design a new path forward that allows us to co-exist sustainably with the wildlife we depend upon.” The report sets out an ambitious agenda for change in society and in human behavior. “Few people have the chance to be part of truly historic transformation. This is ours,” said Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International.

For a longer synopsis of the report, see the press release at https://www.worldwildlife.org/press-releases/wwf-report-reveals-staggering-extent-of-human-impact-on-planet

The full, 146-page report is athttps://c402277.ssl.cf1.rackcdn.com/publications/1187/files/original/LPR2018_Full_Report_Spreads.pdf?1540487589

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