World on path to lose two-thirds of wildlife populations in one lifetime

WWF Living Planet Report 2016 documents loss of biodiversity in land-based, ocean and freshwater environments

Please attribute the following to the Living Planet Report 2016.

TORONTO, Oct. 26, 2016 /CNW/ - Global wildlife populations face a plunge of more than two thirds during the 50-year period ending in 2020 as a result of human activities, according to WWF's Living Planet Report 2016 released today. The report, produced in collaboration with the Zoological Society of London, shows how people are overpowering the planet for the first time in Earth's history, and highlights the changes needed in the way society is fed, fuelled and financed.

According to the report, global populations of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles have already declined by 58 per cent between 1970 and 2012, the most recent year with available data. At this trajectory, the decline could reach 67 per cent by 2020.

For more on the Canadian context, please see addendum.

Key findings

Wildlife are disappearing at an unprecedented rate, with:

  • A 38 per cent decline in land-based populations.
  • A 36 per cent decline in ocean-based populations.
  • An 81 per cent decline in freshwater populations.

 

The biggest threats to species are:

  • Loss and degradation of habitat (through agriculture and logging, and man-made changes to freshwater systems).
  • Overexploitation (through overfishing, hunting and poaching).
  • Invasive species and disease.
  • Pollution.
  • Growing climate change impact.

 

Humans are exceeding planetary boundaries:

  • The resources of 1.6 planets each year are used to provide the goods and services consumed annually. The bigger the ecological footprint, the greater the pressure on ecosystems and biodiversity, and the greater the risk of biodiversity loss.
  • The Earth is being pushed into uncharted territory, with humanity now violating planetary boundaries that act as safe thresholds for nine critical system processes that maintain life on Earth. Those already pushed past safe limits include climate, biosphere integrity, biogeochemical flows (nitrogen and phosphorous) and land-system change (such as conversion of forests to agricultural land). Some assessments suggest freshwater use has also passed a safe threshold.

 

To protect biodiversity, the Living Planet Report 2016 identified the following critical changes as needed:

  • A transition to 100 per cent sustainable and renewable energy sources; speed is a key factor for determining our future.
  • Business models that incorporate the true costs of environmental damage into decision making.
  • A food system with less waste along the food chain, fewer chemical and fossil inputs, significantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions and a shift to less animal protein.

 

Natural ecosystems keep the air breathable, the water drinkable and provide nutritious food. But their complexity, diversity and resilience are rapidly falling due to human activities. This threatens all species, including people, unless we act now.

Quotes

Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International, says
"Wildlife is disappearing within our lifetimes at an unprecedented rate. This is not just about the wonderful species we all love; biodiversity forms the foundation of healthy forests, rivers and oceans. Take away species, and these ecosystems will collapse along with the clean air, water, food and climate services that they provide us. We have the tools to fix this problem and we need to start using them now if we are serious about preserving a living planet for our own survival and prosperity." 

David Miller, CEO and president of WWF-Canada, says:
"Living Planet Report 2016 tells us humanity is pushing the planet into dangerous new territory. We know that here in Canada, our wildlife and their habitats are under increasing pressure from climate change and other human activities. We have a unique responsibility to help protect the world's biodiversity. This report highlights how important it is we all take nature into account in all our development decisions, particularly around fuel and food production. We simply cannot continue to separate economy and environment any longer – the cost of doing so is too great."

Ken Norris, science director of the Zoological Society of London, says:
"Human behaviour continues to drive the decline of wildlife populations globally, with particular impact in freshwater habitats. Importantly, however, these are declines, they are not yet extinctions — and this should be a wake-up call to marshal efforts to promote the recovery of these populations."

About World Wildlife Fund Canada
WWF-Canada creates solutions to the environmental challenges that matter most for Canadians. We work in places that are unique and ecologically important, so that nature, wildlife and people thrive together. Because we are all wildlife. For more information, visit wwf.ca.

Addendum: Biodiversity in the Canadian Context

The following information was compiled by WWF-Canada to provide Canadian context to Living Planet Report 2016.

Unlike some countries already pushing past ecological limits, Canada has tremendous biocapacity, according to the Living Planet Report 2016. With expansive coastlines, abundant freshwater reserves and a significant portion of the world's remaining forests, Canada has a uniquely important global responsibility to protect fast-declining biodiversity.

But here, too, wildlife and the habitat they depend upon are under increasing pressure from climate change and other human activities. What's more, Canadians – per capita – are living beyond what nature's systems can handle and provide. The global population already needs 1.6 Earths to provide the goods and services consumed in a year, the Living Planet Report says. If everyone lived like Canadians, humanity would need 4.7 planets.

Moving is not an option, and for many species and habitats, time is running out. Considering that Earth's interconnected natural systems are essential to meeting humanity's basic needs – including climate regulation, clean air, freshwater and productive soil – Canada can and should play a critical role in preserving biodiversity.

Canada is home to:

  • 20 per cent of the world's freshwater, extensive glacial areas and approximately 25 per cent of the world's remaining wetlands.
  • 24 per cent of the world's remaining boreal forests and 15 per cent of the world's remaining temperate forests; collectively, Canadians are the guardians of 10 per cent of the world's remaining forests.
  • The longest coastline in the world (Pacific, Arctic and Atlantic) – representing 29 per cent of the global coastline.
  • Approximately 70,000 species, with the greatest diversity in the south, where most Canadians also live. As of May 2016, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada determined that 739 wildlife species here are at risk.

 

Despite large intact habitats, biological diversity is threatened in Canada, too. And it's not limited to a particular population in a specific spot. The impact of human behavior is threatening biological diversity within lakes and rivers, along coastlines, across the Arctic, in forests, wetlands and urban areas.

Some key facts:

  • Habitat loss is the biggest threat to biodiversity on land in Canada, with climate change and land-use decisions linked to urbanization the biggest causes (urbanized land has doubled over the last century).
    • Species example: Caribou were once one of Canada's most widespread species, found in over 80 per cent of the country; today some herds are down by more than 95 per cent.
  • Habitat loss and fragmentation is one of the biggest threats to freshwater species in Canada, according to WWF-Canada's Watershed Reports (the first national assessment of the health of Canada's freshwater ecosystems and the threats they face).
    • Species example: Freshwater turtle populations are threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation, as well as overexploitation; seven of our eight species are at risk.
  • Climate change, overexploitation and pollution are the biggest threats to ocean-based species in Canada.

 

Canada, as a guardian of biodiversity:

Canada is in a unique position to protect habitat for species already here, and those migrating northward as the climate changes. Are we ready?

  • Though in terms of square kilometres Canada has a large area protected, it is substantially behind the 17 per cent and 10 per cent terrestrial and marine protection targets laid out in the international Convention on Biological Diversity.
  • Only 10.6 per cent of terrestrial area (both land and freshwater) was protected as of 2015.
  • Only 0.9 per cent of our oceans was protected as of 2015.
  • British Columbia has the greatest proportion of protected lands, nearing 17 per cent.
  • Other provinces lag considerably, with New Brunswick at 4.6 per cent and Prince Edward Island at 3.1 per cent.
  • In the Arctic, which is warming faster than anywhere else on the globe, oil and gas is still given top legal billing ahead of the environmental or community needs as a result of the Canadian Petroleum Resources Act.
  • The Mineral and Energy Resource Assessment policy forces government to look at mineral and energy potential before an area of ocean can be considered for protection.
  • Canada doesn't have consistently applied minimum standards for ocean protections, meaning that a marine protected area could still allow oil and gas exploration and significant commercial fishing.

 

David Miller, president and CEO of WWF-Canada, says:
"The Living Planet Report is more than just a wakeup call. We cannot continue to think that we can separate environment and economy without dire consequences for wildlife, habitat and humanity. We rely on Earth's interconnected systems to regulate our weather, to create clean air and soil and the freshwater we need to survive and thrive. We need to account for the impact of various types of habitat and wildlife disruption and destruction at every stage of decision-making. Only then can we move forward in ways that benefit both wildlife and people."

SOURCE WWF-Canada



For further information: Sarah MacWhirter, senior manager, strategic communications, smacwhirter@wwfcanada.org, +1 416-347-1894

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