There is nothing natural about nature’s steep decline | WWF South Africa

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There is nothing natural about nature’s steep decline

Humanity and the way we feed, fuel and finance our societies and economies is pushing nature and the services that power and sustain us to the brink, according to WWF’s latest Living Planet Report 2018.

The Living Planet Report 2018 presents a sobering picture of the impact of human activity on the world’s wildlife, forests, oceans, rivers and climate. It underscores the rapidly closing window for action and the urgent need for the global community to rethink and redefine how we value, protect and restore nature.

Through indicators such as the Living Planet Index (LPI), provided by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), the Species Habitat Index (SHI), the IUCN Red List Index (RLI) and the Biodiversity Intactness Index (BII), as well as Planetary Boundaries and the Ecological Footprint, the report paints a singular disturbing picture – human activity is pushing the planet’s natural systems that support life on earth to the edge.

The LPI, which tracks trends in global wildlife abundance, indicates that global populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles declined, on average, by 60% between 1970 and 2014, the most recent year with available data. The top threats to species identified in the report are directly linked to human activities, including habitat loss and degradation and overexploitation of wildlife.

Over recent decades, human activity has severely impacted the habitats and natural resources we depend on, such as oceans, forests, coral reefs, wetlands and mangroves. An example is that 20% of the Amazon has disappeared in just 50 years while the earth is estimated to have lost about half of its shallow water corals in the past 30 years.

While highlighting the extent and impact of human activity on nature, the Living Planet Report 2018 also focuses on the importance and value of nature to people’s health and well-being and that of our societies and economies. Globally, nature provides services worth around 125 trillion USD a year, while also helping to ensure a supply of fresh air, clean water, food, energy, medicines and other products and materials.

The report also specifically looks at the importance of pollinators and how a changing climate, intensive agricultural practices, invasive species and emerging diseases have impacted their abundance, diversity and health.

A roadmap for action on nature for 2020 and beyond

Evidence shows that the two agendas – for the environment and human development – must converge if we are to build a sustainable future for all.

The Living Planet Report 2018 highlights the opportunity the global community has to protect and restore nature leading up to 2020, a critical year when leaders are expected to review the progress made on the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

WWF is calling on people, businesses and governments to mobilise and deliver on a comprehensive framework agreement for nature and people under the CBD, one that galvanises public and private action to protect and restore global biodiversity and nature and bend the curve on the devastating trends highlighted in the Living Planet Report 2018.

Chapter 4 of the report is inspired by a paper titled ‘Aiming higher to bend the curve of biodiversity loss’ which suggests a roadmap for the targets, indicators and metrics the 196 member states of the CBD could consider to deliver an urgent, ambitious and effective global agreement for nature, as the world did for climate in Paris, when they meet at the 14th Conference of the Parties to the CBD in Egypt in November 2018.

The CBD CoP14 will bring together world leaders, businesses and civil society 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 global deal for nature and people.

Living Planet Report 2018 is the 12th edition of WWF's biennial flagship publication. The report includes the latest findings measured by the Living Planet Index tracking 16 704 populations of 4 005 vertebrate species from 1970 to 2014.

Dr Morné du Plessis, CEO of WWF South Africa:
“WWF is pushing hard for a new global deal for nature and people to address the crucial questions, including how we feed a growing global population, how we limit global warming below 2 Deg C and how we restore nature. The year 2020 provides an ideal opportunity to do this when global leaders will come together to review conventions on climate, biodiversity and sustainable development.”

Professor Ken Norris, Director of Science the Zoological Society of London:
“From rivers and rainforests, to mangroves and mountainsides, across the planet our work shows that wildlife abundance has declined dramatically since 1970. The statistics are scary, but all hope is not lost. We have an opportunity to design a new path forward that allows us to co-exist sustainably with the wildlife we depend upon. Our report sets out an ambitious agenda for change. We are going to need your help to achieve it.”

Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International:
“It is time we realised that a healthy, sustainable future for all is only possible on a planet where nature thrives and forests, oceans and rivers are teeming with biodiversity and life. We urgently need to rethink how we use and value nature – culturally, economically and on our political agendas. We need to think of nature as beautiful and inspirational, but also as indispensable. We – and the planet – need a new global deal for nature and people now.”

  • The full Living Planet Report 2018 and summary versions of the report are available here. Images are available here.

  • More information about the ‘Aiming higher to bend the curve of biodiversity loss’ paper written by Georgina M. Mace, University College London; Mike Barrett, WWF-UK; Neil D. Burgess, UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre and Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate, University of Copenhagen ; Sarah E. Cornell, Stockholm Resilience Centre; Robin Freeman, ZSL (Zoological Society of London), Monique Grooten, WWF-Netherlands; and Andy Purvis, Natural History Museum, UK can be found here.

How we choose to use the land impacts directly on biodiversity

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