According to a chilling report from the World Wildlife Fund this week, humans have seen a sharp decline in wildlife populations around the world over the last 4½ decades.
The Non-Profit Conservation Organization has published its Living Planet Report The report is based on the Living Planet Index, which takes stock of Earth's biodiversity by examining 16,704 populations of more than 4,000 vertebrate species around the world makes.
This year's report found that populations averaged between mammals, birds, fish reptiles and amphibians declined 60 percent from 1
Although the report is startling, there have been some misleading headlines. The "60 percent number" does not mean that 60 percent of the species have died out. It does not mean that the world has lost 60 percent of all animals.
Instead, the number represents the average decline in population sizes, not the decline in the total number of animals. For example, a population of 200 animals that shrink to 100 would mean a 50 percent decline. And a population of 10 animals that would shrink to 3 would be a 70 percent decline. Taken together, this would be an average population decline of 60 percent. But the total number of disappeared animals would be 107 out of 300 animals or 35 percent.
And, as noted by the Atlantic writer Ed Yong, about half of the species included in the Living Planet Index actually increase. And that may sound like good news, but this does mean that the shrinking species have actually declined by more than 60 percent.
According to the report, among the species of animals that have the most difficulty are freshwater species and tropical wildlife of South and Central America. The freshwater habitat, according to the report, is particularly vulnerable to threats such as climate change, invasive species, overfishing and habitat destruction.
"Wildlife around the world is dwindling," said US President Carter Roberts. "It reminds us that we need to change the course. It is time to reconcile our consumption with the needs of nature and to protect the only planet where our home is located. "