Manada com dois elefantes. Crédito: Aj Robbie/Unsplash

WWF: Wildlife populations down 60% in 44 years

Populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles had a decline of 60% around the world. The tropics show an 89% loss. Environmentally damaging choices may cost US$125 trillion a year

Living Planet, the WWF’s 2018 report presents an alarming framework of global biodiversity - according to the paper, from 1970 to 2014, the populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles declined by 60%, with South America suffering an 89% decline.

Recognized as one of the main science-based assessment of health, the document has been produced in collaboration with more than 50 academic and governmental experts, plus international development and conservation organizations. It reveals that almost 20% of the Amazon has disappeared. If deforestation exceeds 25%, the functioning of ecosystems will suffer severe impacts, leading the land to a permanent desertification.

Brazil has an important position in the environmental balance. The WWF highlights the country's participation in the degradation of the planet's natural environment. It has more than 60% of its territory covered by natural vegetation and plays an important role in global food production.

However, the country's biodiversity rates are alarming: there are 3,286 species into the Brazilian territory, 785 of them in extreme danger, meaning a dramatic decline in the global index, with Atlantic being the habitat for most of them. "Unfortunately, the government is not investing in models of economic development that value the standing forest, such as exploring the potential of the chemical and cosmetic industries, or promoting ecotourism," says Mariana Napolitano, head of the science program of the WWF-Brazil, in an interview with Brazilian newspaper O Globo.

The economy may be affected at US$125 trillion a year

All economic activity depends, to some extent, on services provided by nature. According to the Living Planet Report, it's estimated that the services provided by nature, such as fresh air, clean water, food, and energy are worth around US$125 trillion a year. Its destruction, alerts the document, may cause a big impact on the economic performance.

Studies have been developed by governments, business, non-governmental organizations and the finance sector to help understand how the environmental risks will affect the macroeconomic performance of the countries, sectors and financial markets. The WWF lists, among the risks, the increasing pressure on agricultural land, soil degradation, water stress, and extreme weather events.

In an article published by the scientific journal Nature in 2016, researchers analyzed the most prevalent threats facing more than 8,500 threatened or near-threatened species on the IUNC Red List. They found that the economic activity related to the overexploitation and agricultural activity are the key drivers of biodiversity decline. Of all the plant, amphibian, reptile, bird and mammal species that have gone extinct since AD 1500, 75% were harmed by both.

Potential alternatives

"The nature conservation agenda is not only about securing the future of tigers, pandas, whales and all the amazing diversity of life we love and cherish on Earth. It’s bigger than that. 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", says Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International.

The WWF presents an action plan with 3 steps to measure the progress of the targets and goals to be achieved by 2020 - the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). The three steps determine: 1) The first step in the development of a biodiversity roadmap is to specify the goal; 2) Identify ways to measure progress towards the goal; 3) Identify actions to deliver the required transformation in global biodiversity in time.

"In the next years, we need to urgently transition to a net carbon neutral society and halt and reverse nature loss – through green finance and shifting to clean energy and environmentally friendly food production. Few people have had the chance to find themselves on the cusp of a truly historic transformation. This is where we stand today", Lambertini concluded.

Published 06 December 2018