Global populations of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish have suffered an average two-thirds decline in less than 50 years due to the very same environmental destruction which is contributing to the emergence of zoonotic diseases such as COVID-19.
According to World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Living Planet Report 2020, released Thursday, causes include the same environmental destruction – such as deforestation, unsustainable agriculture and illegal wildlife trade.
The Living Planet Report 2020 presents a comprehensive overview of the state of our natural world through the Living Planet Index – an indicator of the health of our planet.
It shows an average 68% decrease in population sizes of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish between 1970 and 2016.
The report shows that factors believed to increase the planet’s vulnerability to pandemics – including land-use change and the use and trade of wildlife – were also some of the drivers behind the decline.
Wildlife populations found in freshwater habitats have suffered the greatest decline of 84 per cent – the starkest average population decline in any biome, equivalent to 4 per cent loss per year since 1970.
The report further underscores 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.
The evidence cannot be ignored – the serious declines in wildlife species populations are an indicator that nature is unravelling and that our planet is flashing red warning signs of systems failure.
From the fish in our oceans and rivers to bees which play a crucial role in our agricultural production, the decline of wildlife directly affects nutrition, food security and the livelihoods of billions of people.
“When we destroy biodiversity, we destroy the very system that supports our lives,” said Mohamed Awer – CEO WWF-Kenya.
He added: “The urgency to bend the curve of biodiversity loss has never been greater. We need to take coordinated action, reduce our footprint on the planet and ultimately hand over the earth to future generations in a better state. A call for all – governments, businesses and citizens.”
The Living Planet Report 2020 also includes pioneering modelling which shows that without further efforts to counteract habitat loss and degradation, global biodiversity will continue to decline.
It further indicates that if the world carries on with ‘business as usual’, rates of biodiversity loss seen since 1970 will continue over the coming years.
It further indicates that implementing measures together to bend the curve of biodiversity loss rather than in isolation will allow the world to more rapidly alleviate pressures on nature.
The report launches less than a week before the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) when leaders are expected to review the progress made on the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and also a few weeks to the first-ever UN Summit on Biodiversity, to be attended by over 80 Heads of States.
The UNGA 2020 will bring together world leaders to develop the post-2020 framework for action for global biodiversity and thus marks a milestone moment to set the groundwork for an urgently needed New Deal for Nature and People.
Supporters are invited to add their names to WWF-Kenya’s petition – Ni Sisi Sote and help call on world leaders to implement policy frameworks and action plans that implement a ‘One Health’ approach which ensures they are doing all they can to protect us from future pandemics.