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Living Planet Report published this week shows a 60% decline in wildlife populations over the past 40 years

The proportion of the planet's land that is free from human impact is projected to drop from a quarter to a tenth by 2050, as habitat removal, hunting, pollution, disease and climate change continue to spread, the organization added. This ongoing degradation has many impacts on species, the quality of habitats and the functioning of ecosystems. Two recent studies have focused on the dramatic reductions in bee and other pollinator numbers and on the risks to soil biodiversity, critical to sustain food production and other ecosystem services

The biannual Living Planet Report published this week shows a 60% decline in wildlife populations over the past 40 years driven largely by the pressure placed on habitats by the food system and in particular western diets high in meat and processed foods.

The report, produced for WWF by the Zoological Society of London, said that “exploding human consumption” is the driving force behind the unprecedented planetary changes being witnessed, including climate change, land degradation and biodiversity loss, through increased demand for energy, land and water.

Conversion of forests to create land to grow soy, which is used as feed in the production of pork and chicken meat, and palm oil, which is present in a range of consumer goods, is a key contributor to the destruction of natural habitats. The report said increasing transparency around commodity supply chains may help prevent biodiversity loss.

Species population declines are especially pronounced in the tropics, with South and Central America suffering the most dramatic decline, an 89% loss compared to 1970. Freshwater species numbers have also fallen 83% since 1970.

The report said that dramatic reductions in bee and other pollinator numbers and the loss of soil biodiversity threatened future food production and other ecosystem services, adding that without a dramatic move beyond ‘business as usual’ the current severe decline of the natural systems that support modern societies will continue.

The report called for an urgent transition to a net carbon neutral society and a halt to and ultimately reverse of nature loss through green finance and shifting to clean energy and environmentally friendly food production.