Destruction of biodiversity is unprecedented: The population sizes of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish between 1970 and 2016 has decreased on average by 68%.
The Zoological Society of London with the WWF, which manages the Living Planet Index (LPI), shows that this crisis is particularly pronounced in the tropical subregions of the Americas, which recorded the largest reduction observed in any part of the world, a 94% decline in the LPI over this period.
Biodiversity, the authors of the study stress is “fundamental to human life on Earth” and warn “it is being destroyed by us at a rate unprecedented in history” – it states more than 85% of wetland area has been lost and 75% of all ice-free land surface has already been “significantly altered”.
Since the industrial revolution, they say the evidence is “unequivocal” that the degradation and destruction of forests, grasslands, wetlands and other important ecosystems around the world are already threatening the future of humanity.
Accelerating urbanisation, the report empasises and a global explosion in trade, population growth and consumption and means that the Earth’s biocapacity is already being overused by at least 56%.
Economies are intrinsically “embedded within nature” it highlights, but observes the artificial ‘economic grammar’ which drives public and private policy and ‘nature’s syntax’ which determines how the natural world works are not married together, causing damage and friction.
Urgent and unprecedented conservation action is being called for by the organisations involved, as well as transformational changes in the way food is produced and consumed, steps they suggest would enable humankind to capitalise upon the opportunity to flatten and reverse the downward trend of natural habitats and lifeforms.
The report reads: “Tigers, pandas and polar bears are well-known species in the story of biodiversity decline, but what of the millions of tiny, or as-yet-undiscovered, species that are also under threat? What is happening to the life in our soils, or in plant and insect diversity? All of these provide fundamental support for life on Earth and are showing signs of stress.
“Biodiversity loss threatens food security and urgent action is needed to address the loss of the biodiversity that feeds the world. Where and how we produce food is one of the biggest human-caused threats to nature and our ecosystems, making the transformation of our global food system more important than ever. The transformation of our economic systems is also critical.”
Destruction of biodiversity is unprecedented