Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
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The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) released its ‘Living Planet Report 2016: Risk and resilience in a new era,’ which finds that global populations of amphibians, birds, fish, mammals and reptiles declined in abundance by 58% between 1970 to 2012.

The report identifies habitat degradation and loss as the most common threat to species.

It calls for actions to reform food and energy systems and meet global commitments on protecting biodiversity, addressing climate change and implementing sustainable development to avoid a two-thirds decline in species' populations by 2020.

27 October 2016: The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) released its ‘Living Planet Report 2016: Risk and resilience in a new era,’ which finds that global populations of amphibians, birds, fish, mammals, and reptiles declined in abundance by 58% between 1970 to 2012. The report calls for actions to reform food and energy systems and meet global commitments on protecting biodiversity, addressing climate change and implementing sustainable development to avoid a two-thirds decline in species populations by 2020.

The report identifies habitat degradation and loss as the most common threat to declining species, as a result of unsustainable agriculture, logging, residential and commercial development, energy production, transportation and mining. Other highlighted threats include direct over-exploitation like poaching and harvesting, and indirect over-exploitation, such as from fisheries bycatch; pollution; invasive species and disease; and climate change. Habitat degradation and loss is the most common threat for terrestrial and freshwater populations while over-exploitation is the most common threat for marine species.

The accompanying Living Planet Index (LPI), which measures biodiversity by gathering scientific data from 14.152 monitored populations of 3,706 vertebrate species, shows that population sizes of vertebrate species have dropped an average of 2% annually, totaling 58% between 1970 and 2012. This declines include: 81% declines in freshwater populations; 38% declines in terrestrial species; and 36% declines in marine populations. Since the last Living Planet Report, the LPI has added 668 species and 3,772 different populations to the database and methods are in development to add invertebrates and plants.

A strong natural environment is the key to defeating poverty, improving health and developing a just and prosperous future. We have proven that we know what it takes to build a resilient planet for future generations, we just need to act on that knowledge, said WWF International Director General Marco Lambertini.

The Living Planet Report also outlines human impacts on the planet, describing how an increasing world population and growing resource use has strained the planet’s natural resilience. The report presents graphs on the “great acceleration” in carbon dioxide, fertilizer consumption, freshwater use, tropical forest loss, marine fish capture and transportation and six ecological footprints related to cropland, grazing land, fishing grounds, forest products, built-up land and carbon.

The report recommends an earth system perspective, such as a planetary boundaries framework, to better understand relationships between human patterns of consumption and production and how they impact risks for natural and human systems. This perspective identifies biogeochemical flows (nitrogen and phosphorous use) and biosphere integrity (extinction rate, loss of ecological functions) as the highest risk while stressing that each boundary influences the others. The report also presents WWF’s ‘One Planet Perspective,’ which outlines “better choices for governing, using and sharing natural resources within the Earth’s ecological boundaries,” including through redirecting financial flows, producing better and consuming more wisely, and transforming energy and food systems.

The report recognizes the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change as essential to tackling the challenges identified in the report and moving towards a more resilient future. “A strong natural environment is the key to defeating poverty, improving health and developing a just and prosperous future. We have proven that we know what it takes to build a resilient planet for future generations, we just need to act on that knowledge,” said WWF International Director General Marco Lambertini. [WWF Press Release] [Publication: Living Planet Report 2016: Risk and Resilience in a New Era] [Living Planet Report 2016 Website]

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