WWF Report Reveals Global Wildlife Populations Have Fallen by 68% Since 1970

Image:  © WWF / Vincent Kneefel

Over the last century, humans have come to dominate the planet, which has led to rapid ecosystem change and massive loss of biodiversity across the planet. We know that we could lose a million species in the coming decades, but the new Living Planet Report 2020 from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) reveals that globally, monitored population sizes of mammals, fish, birds, reptiles, and amphibians have declined an average of 68% between 1970 and 2016.

Most profoundly, have been the species decline of 94% in Latin America and the Caribbean and 84% in freshwater habitats. The most important direct driver of this loss is land-use change, in particular, the conversation of pristine native habitats into agricultural systems. And while globally, climate change is not yet the greatest driver of biodiversity loss, the report states that in the coming decades climate change will become as, or more important than, other drivers.

Why This Matters: The Living Planet Report makes it very clear, human activity is driving this immense decline in nature and biodiversity, and only we have the power to change our behavior and stop the loss. Biodiversity is essential for all life on Earth, including ours. Our culture, economy, food systems, and health all depend on our relationship with nature.

graphic: WWF

More on Living Planet: As Marco Lambertini, Director GeneralWWF International

Nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in millions of years. The way we produce and consume food and energy, and the blatant disregard for the environment entrenched in our current economic model, has pushed the natural world to its limits. COVID-19 is a clear manifestation of our broken relationship with nature. It has highlighted the deep interconnection between nature, human health and well-being, and how unprecedented biodiversity loss threatens the health of both people and the planet.”

Until 1970, humanity’s Ecological Footprint was smaller than the Earth’s rate of regeneration. To feed and fuel our 21st-century lifestyles, we are overusing the Earth’s biocapacity by at least 56%.

  • These underlying trends are driving the unrelenting destruction of nature, with only a handful of countries retaining most of the last remaining wilderness areas. Our natural world is transforming more rapidly than ever before

What Can Be Done: Reversing these trends of decline is possible. For instance, encouraging all nations to protect at least 30% of the world’s land and oceans by 2030 (30 by 30) is an important milestone that the global community must achieve. In addition, WWF has co-founded a new research initiative – the Bending the Curve Initiative – that has developed pioneering modeling, providing a ‘proof of concept’ that we can halt, and reverse, terrestrial biodiversity loss from land-use change.

  • And the models are all telling us the same thing: that we still have an opportunity to flatten, and reverse, the loss of nature if we take urgent and unprecedented conservation action and make transformational changes in the way we produce and consume food.

And to get at the heart of stopping land-use change that degrades natural ecosystems we must transform agricultural and fishing practices, many of which are unsustainable today, into ones that produce the affordable and nourishing food we need while protecting and conserving biodiversity.

  • For agriculture, this means using sustainable agroecological practices, reducing the use of chemicals, fertilizers, and pesticides, and protecting our soils and pollinators.

What’s New: This year, the Living Planet Report 2020 also includes a look into plant biodiversity trends and features two ‘deep dive’ chapters into freshwater and climate change impacts on biodiversity. The report also contains a supplement, “Voices for a Living Planet,” with 20 opinion pieces from a diverse range of authors and an opening essay by Sir David Attenborough.  The web-based presentation of the report is interactive, and is very much worth a read

Bageni family in the gorilla sector of Virunga National Park, Bukima, Democratic Republic of Congo. Image: © Brent Stirton / Reportage for Getty/WWF



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