60% of world’s wildlife has been wiped out since 1970

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The World Wildlife Fund announce that almost 60% of wild life has been wiped out over the last four decades. The report, released by Living Planet on Monday looks alarming, after 60% decline of the wildlife population between 1970 and 2014. There were more than 16,700 species affected from  fish to birds or mammals. With Central, South America and Caribbean the most affected areas.

“We’ve had a loss of nearly two-thirds, on average, of our wild species,” said James Snider, vice-president of science, research and innovation for WWF-Canada.

“The magnitude of that should be eye opening… We really are reaching a point where we’re likely to see species go extinct. That’s true in Canada and abroad.”

The yellow-throated tanager inhabits high elevations in Peru, where many high-elevation species are declining, the study revealed.

The most dire situation was found in Central and South America and the Caribbean, where wildlife populations have declined by 89%. The freshwater ecosystems from Canada also showed an 83% decline.  Barren-ground caribou and North Atlantic right whales and a lot of migratory species as monarch butterflies and song birds were the most affected.

Barren-ground caribou are among the species that have seen dramatic declines in Canada, according to the 2018 Living Planet report from the World Wildlife Fund.

Among the certain reason for this situations are habitat loss and overexploitation. But the climate change it’s also one of the big threats. In Canada, habitat fragmentation due to human-built structures like roads, pollution and invasive species are all taking their toll, Snider said.

The Living Planet report, issued every two years to track global biodiversity, is based on the Living Planet Index, put out every two years since 1998 in collaboration with the Zoological Society of London and based on international databases of wildlife populations. The two previous reports, in 2014 and 2016, found wildlife population declines of 50 per cent and 58 per cent, respectively, since 1970.

Snider said the results of the new report shows a trend in the wrong direction, and “there’s a real urgency” to take action to protect wildlife. “We’re quite far behind,” he added.

The sturgeon population from the Great Lakes has also significantly declined.

Protecting forests, wetlands and coastal areas to preserve wildlife can also have a side benefit, as those types of ecosystems also store carbon and prevent it from being released into the atmosphere, Snider said.

“There can be a real benefit in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.”

Other studies also revealed that massive deforestation lead to the extinction of many species. One of the studies led  by S. Blair Hedges at the Center for Biodiversity at Temple University in the U.S shows that less than one per cent of the primary forest in Haiti remains. Along with the trees, a lot of species of amphibians and reptiles, have been wiped out too.

Deforested hills in the Massif de la Hotte, Haiti.

Benjamin Freeman, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of British Columbia’s Biodiversity Research Centre, also revealed in his latest study that climate change is an “escalator to extinction” for tropical birds that live at high elevations.

“Nearly all the high elevation birds are declining dramatically in abundance,” Freeman said. Eight species from the previous survey couldn’t be found at all, and Freeman says for five of those, “we’re confident they’re gone.”

“It’s a wake-up call,” Freeman added as his study clearly shows that climate change will cause population declines.

The russet-crowned warbler, one of the most endangered bird species in Peru.

“Calling attention to the decline in abundance is an important thing,” he said. “That really is the main way humans are impacting plants and animals. We’re changing the landscape so there’s many fewer of them,” Benjamin Freeman said.

The World Wildlife Fund report gave us so many reasons to worry about the wildlife!

Source: cbc.ca