New report reveals devastating 69% drop in wildlife populations

A major new report released today with input from UNEP-WCMC has exposed the stark state of nature and called on governments, businesses, and the public to take transformative action to reverse the destruction of biodiversity.   

The World Wildlife Fund for Nature’s (WWF) Living Planet Report (LPR) 2022 found that wildlife populations of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and fish - have seen a devastating 69% drop on average since 1970.  

The report considers the links and drivers behind climate change and nature loss, draws on expert research and monitoring to reveal trends and discusses and models what is needed for a sustainable future for the planet. 

Experts from UNEP-WCMC helped to co-author the LPR and our contributions underpin much of its scientific background. Our team of conservation scientists and biodiversity modellers provided crucial LPR analysis on both the current state of nature around the world, and on the potential pathways out from the nature and climate crises. 

Situational expertise provided by UNEP-WCMC includes global analysis of threats to species derived from the IUCN Red List, an assessment of the condition of biodiversity globally using the Biodiversity Intactness Index, and studies into the linkages between the climate and biodiversity crises and potential solutions to both. 

Looking to the future, we explored ways to expand targets for restoration and conservation at regional and global levels and furthered discussion on emerging modelling to bolster equitable conservation in tandem with sustainable development, and our trade experts contributed work on the transformation of global supply chains.  

“The Living Planet Report not only highlights the challenges we face with biodiversity loss, but it also outlines a pathway to the future to reverse this loss and mitigate environmental challenges for climate and nature. If we follow the pathways outlined in this report, the future for all living things on earth will be much brighter”  

Neil Burgess, UNEP-WCMC Chief Scientist

Today’s iteration of the LPR is powered by its biggest dataset to date – featuring almost 32,000 populations of 5,230 species. The Living Planet Index (LPI)was originally compiled and the methodology for its analysis developed by UNEP-WCMC some twenty years ago, although many more species and population data are now available in the latest dataset, provided by the Zoological Society of London

The LPR shows it is currently within tropical regions that monitored vertebrate wildlife populations are plummeting at a particularly staggering rate. This is a particular concern, given that many of these areas are the most biodiverse in the world. In particular, the LPI data reveals that between 1970 and 2018, monitored wildlife populations in Latin America and the Caribbean region have dropped by 94% on average.  

Some of the species populations with amongst the greatest declines captured in the LPI include the Amazon pink river dolphin, which saw populations plummet by 65% between 1994 and 2016 in the Mamirauá Sustainable Development Reserve in the Brazilian state of Amazonas; the eastern lowland gorilla, whose numbers saw an estimated 80% decline in DRC’s Kahuzi-Biega National Park between 1994 and 2019; and South and Western Australian sea lion pups, which plunged by two-thirds between 1977 and 2019.  

In less than a lifetime, monitored freshwater populations have fallen by an average of 83% across the globe, the largest decline of any species group. Habitat loss and barriers to migration routes are responsible for about half of the threats to monitored migratory fish species. Around the world, the report confirms that the main drivers of wildlife population decline are habitat degradation and loss, over exploitation, the introduction of invasive species, pollution, climate change and disease. All these drivers played a part in Africa’s 66% fall in wildlife populations over the period, as well as Asia Pacific’s overall 55% decline. 

Governments are due to meet at the15th Conference of Parties to the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD COP15) this December for a once-in-a-decade opportunity to set a sustainable path for people and the planet. It will be important that agreement is secured at COP15 for an ambitious global biodiversity framework and the resources required for its full and transparent delivery. 

The LPR makes clear that delivering a on global ambitions for nature will not be possible without recognising and respecting the rights, governance, and conservation leadership of Indigenous people and local communities around the world. According to the UNEP-WCMC-managed Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas Registry, around one fifth of the world’s land is conserved by Indigenous people, who use their longstanding knowledge on nature to sustain biodiversity and so support carbon storage and climate resilience. 

The report concludes that increasing conservation and restoration efforts, producing and consuming food more sustainably, and deeply decarbonising all sectors of the economy are required to mitigate climate change and nature loss. It is only through transforming economies so that natural resources are properly valued, and through delivering more widely on national and international commitments for nature and climate that the wildlife trends documented in the LPR can be reversed, and nature can once again thrive.  

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