WWF: Two-thirds of wildlife have vanished since 1970

10 September 2020 

Two-thirds of the world’s wildlife have disappeared over the past 36 years, according to the World Wildlife Fund. 

The global organisation published the figure in their Living Planet Report 2020, which tracks wildlife trends through contributions from over 100 experts around the world. 

Within habitats, freshwater species saw the starkest decline at 84 per cent since 1970 and South America has seen 94 per cent of its wildlife population disappear within the same time frame. 

Additionally, the report finds that 75 per cent of the planet’s ice-free land surface has been significantly altered by human activity, the majority of the ocean is polluted, and more than 85 per cent of total wetland area has been lost. 

Land use change and wildlife trade were major factors for the steep decline, both of which heighten the risk of future pandemics. 

The change of land use for food production has continued to fuel habitat loss and degradation, the report stresses, and this is particularly clear with the case of deforestation. 

Forests are often cleared for agricultural purposes, to either provide space for livestock or soy plantations.  

Climate change “exacerbates” biodiversity loss 

Human-driven climate change is projected to become a “key driver” of biodiversity loss in the coming decades, but the two crises often overlap and exacerbate each other, according to the WWF. 

Deforestation destroys natural habitats, but the practice also emits greenhouse gases at the same time, for example. 

In order to address these crises, the new EU climate law “must include a 65 per cent emissions reduction target for 2030” and an independent scientific body to scrutinise policy, the WWF recommended. 

“Now is the moment for our politicians to put their money where their mouth is, by earmarking half of the EU recovery fund for environment and climate action, and ensuring that not a penny will go to fossil fuels and other harmful sectors,” Director of WWF’s European Policy Office Ester Asin said. 

“The magnitude of the war on nature” 

The report reveals the sheer magnitude of the war on nature that humans have unleashed, Irish Wildlife Trust Campaigns Officer Padraic Fogarty told The Green News. 

Being dependent on ecosystems ourselves, the impacts of the climate crisis will affect our food, water and air, he warned. 

“If we treated the biodiversity emergency with the same level of urgency as the Covid-19 crisis, we would close down industrial fisheries, remove farm animals from our peatland landscapes and drastically reorient our farmland so that it produces food for people and communities, and not commodity markets,” he said. 

In order to address the crisis, the EU’s Biodiversity Strategy will be “hugely important”. 

“But we need a firm commitment from the Irish Government to implement this enthusiastically. It needs to be funded and local communities empowered to drive it on,” Mr Fogarty added.

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Kayle Crosson