Produced in collaboration with ZSL, the Water Footprint Network and the Global Footprint Network, the report tracks thousands of species populations and measures how the impact of the way we live our lives is affecting our environment.
Its findings reveal that:
Wildlife in our rivers, lakes and wetlands has suffered a 76 per cent decline – an average loss almost double that seen in land and marine species populations.
Land-based species populations declined by 39 per cent, a trend that shows no sign of slowing down.
Marine species populations declined by 39 percent. Species in decline include marine turtles, many sharks, and large migratory seabirds like the wandering albatross.
Wildlife populations are declining in tropical and temperate climates, but the biggest decline – 63 per cent since 1970 – has been seen in the tropics. Central and South America shows the most dramatic regional decline – a fall of 83 per cent.
Why: Widespread declines have been found among populations of the European eel. The species is Critically Endangered and is threatened by changes to freshwater habitat which impede its migration. Other major threats are disease and overfishing.
Why: In Ghana’s Mole National Park, the lion population has declined by over 90% in 40 years. This is thought to be due to killing of lions in retaliation to human lion conflict, and is a worrying example of the status of lions in Western and Central Africa.
Where: West and Central Africa
Why: Due to a rapid loss of their traditional habitat, forest elephants have been restricted to a mere 6-7 per cent of their historic range. Further recent analysis suggests that, across the forest elephant’s range, the population size declined by more than 60 per cent between 2002 and 2011 – primarily due to increasing rates of poaching for ivory.
Why: There has been a 100 year decline in wild tiger numbers, from around 100,000 in 1910 to as few as. 3,200 in 2010. This dramatic decline is due to habitat destruction and poaching of tigers for the illegal Wildlife trade.
Why: In Bangladesh, populations of the endangered Hoolock gibbon declined by more than 50% between 1986 and 2006, due to habitat destruction.
Why: 11 populations of snake have declined sharply and 8 of these across UK, France and Italy have declined by over 50% between 1990 and 2009. The exact cause is unknown but it’s likely a combination of factors including habitat degradation and loss of prey.
Why: Farmland birds in the UK, such as Grey partridge, have declined by 50% between 1970 and 2012 mainly due to changes in agricultural management which affect the birds’ breeding habitat.
Why: Population sizes of many migratory shorebird species are reported to be in decline in Australia. For example one site in Southern Australia saw a 23% decline across all species from 1982 to 2011. These birds are long distance migrants and it is thought that the degradation of their habitat at stopover sites on their migration route could be causing their decline. The Curlew Sandpiper has seen a particularly large decline - one study monitored this species at seven sites in Australia and found a decline from 37,500 individuals in 1982 to 7,500 in 2005.
Where: Orkney Islands, UK
Why: Phocine distemper epidemics are thought to have caused significant declines in harbour seal populations. However, this does not seem to entirely explain long term decline. It is thought that local factors, for example, the killing of seals in the Moray Firth to protect Salmon Farms may also have an impact. Between 2001 and 2006, the population in Orkney and Shetland declined by 40%.
Where: Ionian sea, Greece
Why: The short-beaked common dolphin has been in decline in the Mediterranean sea since the 1960s. Between 1996 and 2007 numbers declined in the Ionian sea from 150 to 15 individuals. Overfishing in the area is thought to have reduced the amount of prey available for the dolphins.
Where: South Atlantic Ocean
Why: A rapid decline has been observed in populations of the wandering albatross, driven largely by incidental catch in long line fisheries. One population, from Bird Island, South Georgia, declined by 50% between 1972 and 2010 according to data from the British Antarctic Survey long term monitoring programme.
Where: Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Costa Rica
Why: Populations of Leatherback turtle has declined in both the tropical Atlantic and Pacific. For example, numbers declined by 95% between 1989 and 2002 in Las Baulas National Park in Costa Rica. This decline was principally due to turtles being caught as by-catch, but was also affected by development around the nesting beaches. This trend has been observed in other populations throughout its range.
Where: Missouri, USA
Why: Over 20 years of monitoring (from 1975 to 1995) populations of hellbender salamanders have declined by about 77% in 5 locations in Missouri, and declines have been observed across its range. The exact causes have not been established but it is thought that degradation of the habitat from the impact of agriculture and the recreational use of rivers might be the main driver.
The biggest recorded threats to our planet’s wildlife are habitat loss and degradation as well as over-exploitation of species. Much of this caused by human activity, such as overfishing, deforestation, dam building and over-extraction of rivers.
Climate change is also likely to become an increasing threat. To have a realistic chance of securing a safe, stable climate, we need to urgently and radically reduce our carbon emissions over the next couple of decades.
It is clear that, both globally and here in the UK, we are using more resources than our planet can continue to provide. For example, we are cutting down trees more quickly than they can regrow, harvesting more fish than the oceans can restock, pumping water from our rivers and aquifers faster than rainfall can replenish them, and emitting more carbon than the oceans and forests can absorb.
Human over-consumption is putting unsustainable pressure on our planet.
We rely on nature to meet all of our most basic needs - from food and shelter to the water we drink and the air we breathe - and if we continue to mismanage the Earth's resources there will be serious consequences for our future food, water and energy security.
Millions of people rely on the marine environment for their livelihoods – the global fishing sector employs more than 660 million people and marine fisheries supply more than 15 per cent of the animal protein in our diets, rising to more than 50 per cent in many countries in Africa and Asia. If threats to oceans are not abated, the economic losses could reach US$428 billion by 2050.
Forest ecosystems provide shelter, water, fuel and food for more than 2 billion people, including 350 million of the world’s poorest people. Overall the planet’s forests are declining in area and in quality. This has had severe impacts on biodiversity, since the majority of terrestrial species live in forests, and is reducing the capacity for forests to absorb our carbon footprint, as well as affecting ecosystem services such as water provision and flood prevention.
Freshwater systems are also under huge pressure. More than 200 river basins, home to some 2.67 billion people, are already experiencing severe water scarcity for at least one month every year.
Additionally, human population in urban areas is projected to increase from 3.6 billion in 2011 to 6.3 billion in 2050. In many cases, city infrastructures are unable to keep pace with such rapid increases in population, nor the growth of their inhabitant’s demands. Of the 63 most populated urban areas 39 are exposed to a high risk of at least one natural hazard, including flooding, cyclones and droughts.
We need a healthy planet for a stable future. This means we need to consume more wisely and produce less wastefully, to harness clean energy, to manage the world’s resources better and to halt the loss of our key habitats and species. WWF is working with partners around the globe to help us all start living within the natural limits of our planet.
WWF is working with a wide range of businesses, in order to help them minimise the impact of their industry. We are also pushing world leaders to commit to a global agreement to tackle climate change, to create better policies to improve social development and to make stronger commitments to protect our planet’s most threatened places and species.
But you can also help. We can all make better choices about how we live and consume as individuals.
Here are three simple ways that you can make a difference:
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