Animal Populations Have Declined By 60 Percent Since 1970

 Alan Neuhauser

ANIMAL SPECIES AROUND the world have seen their populations decline by an average of 60 percent between 1970-2014, according to a report published Tuesday by the World Wide Fund for Nature.

The drop among species in the tropics was especially pronounced, with animal populations in South and Central America seeing losses of 89 percent from 1970. Freshwater species have shrunk by 83 percent.

"While climate change is a growing threat, the main drivers of biodiversity decline continue to be the overexploitation of species, agriculture and land conversion," according to the WWF "Living Planet Report" for 2018. "Without a dramatic move beyond 'business as usual' the current severe decline of the natural systems that support modern societies will continue."

Only a quarter of land on Earth is "substantively free of the impacts of human activities," the report found. That sliver is expected to shrink to just one-tenth of the land on Earth by 2050.

The findings are in line with prior reports by the WWF, which in 2016 warned that animal populations would plummet by more than two-thirds from 1970-2020 – a trend that some scientists have said could become a the sixth "mass extinction" in the history of the planet.

The latest report comes on the heels of an alarming report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which warned of worldwide catastrophe without urgent steps to address global warming.

"Our day-to-day life, health and livelihoods depend on a healthy planet," Marco Lambertini, director general of the WWF, said in a statement accompanying the report. "There cannot be a healthy, happy and prosperous future for people on a planet with a destabilized climate, depleted oceans and rivers, degraded land and empty forests, all stripped of biodiversity, the web of life that sustains us all."

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