WWF (2020) Living Planet Report 2020 – Bending the curve of biodiversity loss

WWF (2020) Living Planet Report 2020 – Bending the curve of biodiversity loss, by Almond, R.E.A., Grooten M. and Petersen, T. (Eds). WWF, Gland, Switzerland.

At a time when the world is reeling from the deepest global disruption and health crisis of a lifetime, this year’s Living Planet Report provides unequivocal and alarming evidence that nature is unravelling and that our planet is flashing red warning signs of vital natural systems failure. The Living Planet Report 2020 clearly outlines how humanity’s increasing destruction of nature is having catastrophic impacts not only on wildlife populations but also on human health and all aspects of our lives.

This highlights that a deep cultural and systemic shift is urgently needed, one that so far our civilisation has failed to embrace: a transition to a society and economic system that values nature, stops taking it for granted and recognises that we depend on nature more than nature depends on us.

This is about rebalancing our relationship with the planet to preserve the Earth’s amazing diversity of life and enable a just, healthy and prosperous society – and ultimately to ensure our
own survival.

Nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in millions of years. The way we produce and consume food and energy, and the blatant disregard for the environment entrenched in our current economic model, has pushed the natural world to its limits. COVID-19 is a clear manifestation of our broken relationship with nature. It has highlighted the deep interconnection between nature, human health and well-being, and how unprecedented biodiversity loss threatens the health of both people and the planet.

It is time we answer nature’s SOS. Not just to secure the future of tigers, rhinos, whales, bees, trees and all the amazing diversity of life we love and have the moral duty to coexist with, but because ignoring it also puts the health, well-being and prosperity, indeed the future, of nearly 8 billion people at stake.

The Living Planet Report 2020 shows that there is an opportunity to heal our relationship with nature and mitigate risks of future pandemics but this better future starts with the decisions that governments, companies and people around the world take today. World leaders must take urgent action to protect and restore nature as the foundation for a healthy society and a thriving economy.

We still have a chance to put things right. It’s time for the world to agree a New Deal for Nature and People, committing to stop and reverse the loss of nature by the end of this decade and build a carbon-neutral and nature-positive economy and society.

This is our best safeguard for human health and livelihoods in the long term, and to ensure a safe future for our children and children’s children.

Marco Lambertini,
Director General
WWF International

Executive Summary:

The global Living Planet Index continues to decline. It shows an average 68% decrease in population sizes of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish between 1970 and 2016. A 94% decline in the LPI for the tropical subregions of the Americas is the largest fall observed in any part of the world.

Why does this matter?
It matters because biodiversity is fundamental to human life on Earth, and the evidence is unequivocal – it is being destroyed by us at a rate unprecedented in history. Since the industrial revolution, human activities have increasingly destroyed and degraded forests, grasslands, wetlands and other important ecosystems, threatening human well-being. Seventy-five per cent of the Earth’s ice-free land surface has already been significantly altered, most of the oceans are polluted, and more than 85% of the area of wetlands has been lost.

Species population trends are important because they are a measure of overall ecosystem health. Measuring biodiversity, the variety of all living things, is complex, and there is no single measure that can capture all of the changes in this web of life. Nevertheless, the vast majority of indicators show net declines over recent decades.

That’s because in the last 50 years our world has been transformed by an explosion in global trade, consumption and human population growth, as well as an enormous move towards urbanisation. Until 1970, humanity’s Ecological Footprint was smaller than the Earth’s rate of regeneration. To feed and fuel our 21st century lifestyles, we are overusing the Earth’s biocapacity by at least 56%.

These underlying trends are driving the unrelenting destruction of nature, with only a handful of countries retaining most of the last remaining wilderness areas. Our natural world is transforming more rapidly than ever before, and climate change is further accelerating the change.

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