60% of animal populations wiped out since 1970, major report finds

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60% of animal populations wiped out since 1970, major report finds

From hedgehogs and puffins to elephants, rhinos and polar bears, wildlife is in decline, due to the loss of habitats, poaching, pollution of land and seas and rising global temperatures, the "Living Planet" report warned. The information is based on data from approximately 16.700 populations studied and about 4000 species of vertebrates in the world.

These human-driven changes are so severe that scientists believe we may be inducing a mass extinction event.

The bi-yearly Living Planet Report released Monday documents the state of the planet, including biodiversity, ecosystems and the demand on natural resources. The report says that nearly three-quarters of all the land on the earth are now in some or the other way is affected by humans and their activities.

"We are sleepwalking towards the edge of a cliff", says Mike Barrett, executive director of science and conservation at WWF.

While climate change is a growing threat, the report said the overexploitation of species for consumption, agriculture, and activities such as land conversion and habitat loss were the top threats to biodiversity. "Economically, pollination increases the global value of crop production by $237-$577 billion per year to growers alone and keeps price down for consumers", the report says.

It is estimated that 99pc of all species that have ever lived on planet Earth are now extinct, driven in large part by evolution, changing climates and, of course, human intervention. "The Living Planet report clearly demonstrates that human activities are destroying nature at an unacceptable rate, threatening the well being of current and future generations". "The index shows an 83 per cent decline in freshwater biodiversity since 1970, equivalent to 4 per cent every year", the report said.

The staggering loss is reflected in the organization's Living Planet Index, which tracks global biodiversity by measuring the abundance of mammals, reptiles, birds and other species.

Perhaps the scariest statistic: humans have wiped out about 60 per cent of the planet's animal life since 1970.

"We need a new global deal for nature", said Lambertini, noting two key ingredients in the 195-nation Paris climate treaty.

More generally, the marginal capacity of Earth's ecosystems to renew themselves has been far outstripped by humanity's ecological footprint, which has almost tripled in 50 years. "We may also be the last generation that can do something about it".

The report has pointed out that an global biodiversity assessment earlier this year had noted that only a quarter of land on Earth is substantively free of human activities. "It is time that we look beyond business as usual scenarios and galvanise collective action for positive change, allowing the planet an opportunity to revive itself", Secretary General and CEO of WWF-India Ravi Singh said. Globally, nature provides services worth around $125 trillion a year, while also helping ensure the supply of fresh air, clean water, food, energy, medicines and more.

The authors urged the 200 member countries of the Convention on Biological Diversity to come up with a set of global goals to protect animal species when they meet next month in Egypt.

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