Environmental decline calls for global action

Biodiversity and the overall health of the planet are in steep decline but global commitment can still reverse the trend, says a report published today by WWF.

The report, the twelfth in the biennial Living Planet Index series, analysed data from six measurement tools to provide as complete an overview as possible. All six measurements showed a marked decline.

In terms of vertebrate population, for example, there has been a 60% overall loss from 1970 to 2014. Extinction risks have also risen for five major taxonomic groups (birds, mammals, amphibians, corals and cycads, an ancient group of plants), pointing towards an overall acceleration towards extinction across the board.

In addition, the analysis showed that humans have already pushed four of six of earth’s processes beyond a safe limit, namely: climate change, the integrity of the biosphere, biogeochemical flows (nitrogen and phosphorus), and land-system change.

This has vast implications for humans – nature provides about US $125 trillion worth of services each year, over 30 times the United States Government’s annual expenditure. Nearly 200 million people, for example, depend on coral reefs for protection against storm surge and waves, and yet in the last 30 years the amount of shallow water corals has been halved.

The Report does also provide potential solutions, however. A chapter titled ‘Bending curve of biodiversity loss’, co-authored by UNEP-WCMC’s Chief Scientist Neil Burgess, details how the implementation of global commitments could halt and reverse the trend in biodiversity loss.

Commenting on the Report, Neil said: “While this report is certainly troubling, it is far from hopeless. The UN Biodiversity Conference is meeting in just a few weeks, and if the 196 governments accelerate national conservation actions there is still every chance to reinvigorate the planet’s natural systems.

“Several UNEP-WCMC staff will be going to the Conference and we look forward to giving our support to governments and civil society actors, both by providing expertise on required global actions and by finding ways to measure their progress.”

Download the full Report and read the press release on the WWF website

Image: Andy -

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