World faces two-thirds fall in wildlife numbers: WWF
Thursday, October 27, 2016, 7:27 PM - Global diversity could fall by two thirds by 2020, according to a new report from the World Wildlife Fund.
Specifically, the WWF's report, released Thursday, says the decline could reach 67 per cent when compared to 1970 levels, and current levels are not much better: According to the group, Earth lost 58 per cent of its wildlife from 1970 to 2012.
That's based on data from the Zoological Society of London's Living Planet Index, which monitors more than 14,000 populations spread out over around 3,700 species.
When drilling down to individual species or kingdoms, the numbers are particularly catastrophic for wetland species, like amphibians. The wetland realm saw an astonishing 81 per cent decline, compared to land-based (38 per cent drop) and marine (36 per cent decline) species over the same period.
"Human behaviour continues to drive the decline of wildlife populations globally, with particular impact in freshwater habitats," said Prof. Ken Norris, science director at the Zoological Society of London. "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."
The WWF says the most common cause for species decline is habitat loss, but it also lists other factors: Over-exploitation, pollution, invasive species, disease, and climate change:
"As temperatures change, some species will need to adapt by shifting their range to track suitable climate. The effects of climate change on species are often indirect. Changes in temperature can confound the signals that trigger seasonal events such as migration and reproduction, causing these events to happen at the wrong time (for example misaligning reproduction and the period of greater food availability in a specific habitat)" -- 2016 Living Planet Index
The WWF says the declines are signs of a hypothesized ongoing "sixth extinction", as well as the fact mankind may have entered a new "Anthropocene" period, where humanity's effects on the Earth, such as emissions and pollution, can be detected in the geological record.
Stories of species decline are commonplace in media today.
In Canada, a report this week indicated Ontario's moose population has experienced a significant decline over the past decade. Earlier this month, a WWF-Canada study showed some Canadian barren-ground caribou herds have declined by more than 90 per cent.