The biannual Living Planet, the flagship report of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), has revealed an alarming level of planetary change resulting from unchecked consumption.

By Daniel Herborn


Posted on November 1, 2018

The report says deforestation, resource consumption by the agricultural industry and over-exploitation of species have all contributed to the widespread destruction of animal habitats.

“Earth is losing biodiversity at a rate seen only during mass extinctions,” the report says.

Living Planet involved an extensive survey of species loss

The report surveyed more than 4,000 species of birds, fish, amphibians, mammals and reptiles and found many species had suffered significant decline. The work draws on big data and new imaging, tracking and analytical tools.

Present rates of species extinction have now hit a level 1,000 times greater than those seen before human involvement in animal ecosystems.

It concludes that the economic cost of this loss has been seismic. “All economic activity ultimately depends on services provided by nature, estimated to be worth around US$125 trillion a year.

“Business and the finance industry are starting to question how global environmental risks will affect the macroeconomic performance of countries, sectors and financial markets and policy-makers wonder how we will meet climate and sustainable development targets with declining nature and biodiversity.”

“We’re still taking nature for granted”

In light of the report’s findings, the WWF called for international cooperation in the form of a treaty modelled on the Paris Agreement. Such an agreement would aim to protect wildlife from human influence on ecosystems and to reverse existing damage.

The foundation acknowledged that there is now greater awareness of conservation but that efforts to prevent further loss of habitat are not sufficient to halt man-made environmental damage.

WWF Director-General Marco Lambertini said the loss of ecosystems described in the report is “unprecedented in its speed”.

“It’s mindblowing…We’re talking about 40 years. It’s not even a blink of an eye compared to the history of life on Earth. We’re still taking nature for granted, and it has to stop.

“We can be the founders of a global movement that changed our relationship with the planet,” Lambertini said. “or we can be the generation that had its chance and failed to act, that let Earth slip away.”

The Amazon rainforest, African elephants and koalas have all suffered from human impact

Some of the world’s natural wonders have been among the worst impacted. Around 20% of the Amazon rainforest has been razed in the last half-century, the report found. Reforestation has mitigated the loss of overall forest levels but tropical rainforest, which plays an important role in cooling local climate, continues to decline. More than half the world’shallow-water coral reefs have also disappeared in the last three decades.

In Australia, the koala population has declined around 20% a decade. An even more dramatic loss in numbers is seen among Tanzania’s elephant population, which fell by 60% in just five years between 2009-2014 as the animals were targeted by ivory poachers.

Only around a quarter of all land on earth is currently free of the impact of human activity but the report forecast this will fall to 10% by 2050.