A startling new report by the World Wildlife Fund and Zoological Society of London suggested that we have seen a 69% reduction in animal populations over the last half-century. Based on data dating back hundreds of years and monitoring populations of thousands of species, the scientists witnessed an overall downward trend in global biodiversity levels. The long-measured Living Planet Index concluded this rapid decrease to have taken place between 1970 and 2018. But while this information is important in its own right, what seems to be more pressing is the response. What is driving these patterns, and what can be done to help?
"The message is clear, and the lights are flashing red," warned the WWF International Director General Marco Lambertini. As explained in the report, the resulting figures are concerning, foreshadowing a bleak future for the natural world. Although a few animal populations have been steadily increasing, the overall trend is heading in a worrying direction. As part of the research, the scientists have explained what they believe to be the leading causes of this biodiversity loss. The first main issue is human-driven land-use changes resulting from infrastructure projects, energy production, and deforestation.
More than all the above, however, is the pressing impacts of Climate Change. It's no secret that the rising world temperatures are threatening the existence of plants and animals globally. So much so, reports suggest that if temperatures reach beyond 1.5°C, it will stamp itself as the number one cause of biodiversity loss. Taking this all a step further, this combination of climate change and biodiversity loss has resulted in various issues for humanity. This includes death and economic loss from extreme weather, restricted food and water supply, and a wider spread of diseases.
Many are hopeful that a solution will be discussed at the U.N. Biodiversity Conference in Montreal in December. Significant steps must be taken to control and reverse the environmental damage seen so far. Moreover, with time running out to make a difference, the pressure is on to act quickly. While no "bold action" has been taken so far, WWF chief scientist Rebecca Shaw emphasized the "little things that we can do every day [to] change the direction of these population declines." Changing how we eat and consume may feel small, but it can help reduce pressures on the land, making all the difference. Check out the full report here.