Populations of birds, fish, mammals, and amphibians have declined an average 60 percent since 1970, according to a new report by the World Wildlife Fund. South and Central America experienced the highest loss of biodiversity, with vertebrate species declining 89 percent in 45 years. Populations of freshwater vertebrates declined 83 percent.
The study, WWF’s biennial Living Planet Report, which surveyed data from 16,700 populations of more than 4,000 species, found that the global rate of species loss is 100 to 1,000 times higher than a few centuries ago. About half of the world’s shallow corals have disappeared in the past 30 years; 20 percent of the Amazon has been lost in the past 50 years.
The biggest threats to biodiversity are directly linked to human activities, the report concluded, particularly agriculture, land conversion, and overexploitation of species, including by such activities as fishing. Just 25 percent of land globally remains relatively untouched by human activities today, but this is expected to drop to just 10 percent by 2050.
“The situation is really bad, and it keeps getting worse,” Marco Lambertini, the director general of WWF International, told AFP. “The only good news is that we know exactly what is happening.”