The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has released a grim, damning new report illustrating the extreme drop off in the world’s wildlife population. Over 3,000 animal species’ populations have dropped more than previously thought, and human action is to blame.
The WWF found that wildlife populations have decreased by 52 percent from 1970 to 2010. Originally, in 2012, the WWF reported that species of fish, birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians only decreased by 28 percent since 1970. However, advancements in how the WWF measures those numbers provided the updated, more accurate result.
“There is no room for complacency,” said the WWF International Director General Marco Lambertini.
This “Living Planet” study examined data from 10,000 populations of over 3,000 vertebrates from a database kept by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL). The year 1970 is used as the comparative metric because that’s when the ZSL began compiling the comprehensive data.
This study plays into the historical narrative of the world’s mass extinctions. In May, Science published a report illustrating similar results as the WWF study. Plant and animal extinction rates are accelerating beyond expectation and it’s human activity to blame.
“We are on the verge of the sixth extinction,” said biologist Stuart Pimm of Duke University. “Whether we avoid it or not will depend on our actions.”
In the world’s history, there have been five mass extinctions, usually associated with meteor strikes, that eradicated most of the world’s plant and animal life. About 252 million years ago, 90 percent of species were eradicated. The last mass extinction was the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction that killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
Deforestation, over-fishing and hunting, and blatant destruction of natural habitat have all accelerated the rate at which animals and plants are being wiped off the face of the earth, all by human hands. These issues are why scientists believe that we are approaching a sixth mass extinction. Although the outlook is grim, experts still have hope.
“This damage is not inevitable but a consequence of the way we choose to live,” said Ken Norris of the ZSL. “There is still hope. Protecting nature needs focused conservation, political will, and support from the industry.”
Josh is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. Follow him on Twitter @dnJdeli.