Coral reefs, sharks and freshwater species in danger: Living Planet report reveals 69% of biodiversity lost in half a century | news | environmental business

The 2022 edition of the report includes 838 new species and 11,011 new groups. Written by 89 contributors, it covers nearly 32,000 groups of 5,230 species of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians.

The Asia Pacific region has lost more than half (55 percent) of its natural capital in the past 48 years. Habitat degradation and loss has been the most common threat to wildlife in the area.

The decline in biodiversity was most severe in Africa (66 percent) and most severe in Latin America – home to the world’s largest and most biodiverse forest, the Amazon – which experienced a 94 percent decline in biodiversity.

“It’s within the tropics where monitored wildlife numbers are declining at an astonishing rate,” Alistair Monument, director of conservation impact at WWF Asia Pacific, told Eco-Business.

The loss of nature is rarely seen as a purely ethical or environmental issue, with a broad sense of its vital importance to our economy, our social stability, individual well-being and health, and as a matter of justice.

Marco Lambertini, Director General of the World Wide Fund for Nature

Global biodiversity loss 1970-2018

Global Biodiversity Loss 1970-2018. Source: Living Planet 2022

Nature loss in North America and Europe was less severe, declining by 20 percent and 18 percent, respectively.

Freshwater species in deep trouble

The news is particularly bleak for freshwater ecosystems, which cover less than one percent of the planet but provide areas for about half the population to live and thrive in.

Life in rivers, lakes, ponds and streams has declined an average of 83 percent since 1970, according to the report. This is due in part to human proximity to freshwater ecosystems, breakdown of the water-body connection, pollution, water extraction, and overfishing.

Dams, reservoirs, and climate impacts mean that only 37 percent of rivers longer than 1,000 km still flow freely over their entire lengths, and migratory freshwater fish populations have shrunk by three-quarters as a result.

In Asia, the number of river dolphins declined, on average, by 73 percent between 1980 and 2018, with threats such as being caught in fishing gear, dams, pollution and boat strikes causing every species now to be classified as either endangered.

The report’s authors comment that nature could return. Replacing dams on the Mekong with solar power, and improving tracking and regulation of sand mines, could help the world’s largest inland fisheries avert a food security crisis for the tens of millions of people who depend on the river.

Removal of levees and modifications to levees in the Penobscot River in Maine, US, has dramatically increased the numbers of river herring, from a few hundred to nearly 2 million within five years, enabling people to return to fishing, according to the report noted.


A type of cycad, the oldest seeding plant in the world. Cycads are endangered due to the destruction of their tropical habitats. Photo: Pocket Rocket / Flickr

Loss looms

Using data from the Red List of Threatened Species, the report found that coral reefs – marine invertebrates that form vast colonies on which millions of fish and other aquatic life forms depend – are experiencing rapid decline in the populations studied.

Coral reefs are particularly vulnerable to changes in sea temperature and acidity. The Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest living organism, has experienced mass bleaching events in four of the past six years due to warm sea temperatures. Only two mass bleaching events have been recorded on the sprawling reef until 2016.

Cycads, an ancient type of plant that appeared before the age of the dinosaurs, are most threatened, mainly due to the loss of tropical habitats and because they They grow slowly and reproduce irregularly. Loss of cycads may induce ripple effects for other organisms, as they play an important role in nitrogen fixation. Cycad seeds are also commonly used in Chinese medicine.

Corals show the largest depression of any species.  Source: Living Planet 2022

Corals show the largest decline in five taxonomic groups assessed. Cycads, a primitive group of plants that live in the tropics, are in danger of extinction. Source: Living Planet 2022

The decline in coral coincided with dwindling numbers of sharks and marine predators that had been around for at least 450 million years.And the It survived four of the five largest historical mass extinctions.

Sharks and their close cousins, rays, have become 71 percent less abundant over the past 50 years, with pollution and their use of meat, fins and purported medicinal properties responsible for the population decline. The oceanic white shark, also known as the drowning shark, is classified as critically endangered, with numbers declining by 95 percent in three generations.

Threat Hotspots

The Living Planet Report, using the IUCN Red List and distribution data, mapped the terrestrial species most vulnerable to treatment from agriculture, hunting, trapping, logging, pollution, invasive species and climate change. He found that biodiversity is under the most severe threat in Southeast Asia and other tropical hotspots.

Global Threat Hotspots for Terrestrial Invertebrates

Global Biodiversity Threat Dark-coloured hot spots. The map shows threats to terrestrial vertebrates from agriculture, hunting, logging, pollution, invasive species, and climate change. Source: Living Planet 2022

Climate and biodiversity

The WWF report appears just weeks before COP27 climate talks in Egypt, and two months before world leaders meet at COP15 in Montreal to negotiate a deal for nature that observers hope will emulate the Paris Agreement, which was drafted to limit the effects of climate change. .

The COP 15 negotiations are expected to result in a commitment to conserve at least 30 percent of the land and oceans by 2030. Although the UN resolution is not legally binding, it aims to recognize the link between nature loss and climate change.

The Living Planet Report concluded that while land use change is currently the greatest threat to nature, if the 1.5°C warming threshold of the Paris Agreement is exceeded, climate events will become the primary cause of nature’s degradation in the coming decades.

Rising temperatures are already causing mass deaths, as well as the first extinctions of entire species. Each degree of temperature is expected to increase these losses and their impact on people, the report said.

The report’s authors note that COP15 is humanity’s “last chance” to halt and reverse the loss of nature and work to restore the terrestrial and marine ecosystems on which humanity depends.

The COP15 talks have already been postponed twice and progress is said to have been slow, with countries like Brazil actively opposing a global agreement on nature conservation.

“It is imperative that this agreement provides immediate action on the ground, including through the transformation of sectors leading to the loss of nature, and financial support to developing countries,” said Marco Lambertini, Director General of the WWF.

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