The planet has lost in less than 50 years more than two-thirds of its vertebrates and the tropical regions of Central and South America are the hardest hit, with a collapse that reaches 94%, according to a report from the World Fund for Nature ( WWF)
Human activity and its consumer society have also degraded three quarters of the land and 40% of the oceans. In particular, deforestation and agricultural expansion are largely responsible for explaining the disappearance of 68% of vertebrates between 1970 and 2016, according to the 13th edition of the Planeta Vivo Index published on Wednesday.
The report, prepared every two years by WWF International in collaboration with the Zoological Society of London, also warns of the risk of future epidemics, as man extends his presence and comes into contact with wild animals.
“For 30 years, we have been following this fall (in biodiversity), which is accelerating. We keep going in the wrong direction, ”WWF Director-General Marco Lambertini told AFP.
“In 2016, we documented a decrease of 60%, now 70%”, a lapse that represents “a blink of an eye compared to the millions of years of life of many species on this planet”, analyzed Lambertini.
The main cause of this loss of biodiversity is land modification, especially when the industry converts forests into farms, destroying wildlife habitat. In addition, invasive species and contamination are added.
In total, one third of the earth’s surface and three quarters of freshwater resources are dedicated to food production. In the oceans, 75% of fish stocks suffer from overfishing.
Although global, the problem is more pronounced in certain regions.
In the tropical regions of Central and South America the loss is almost absolute, reaching 94%, especially for amphibians, reptiles and fish, due to a “cocktail” of factors, such as overuse and the development of hydroelectric energy, which “impacts severely affect fish populations ”and represent“ an even greater threat in the future ”.
The Index also warns that disease is the main danger for amphibians. In Panama, for example, the fungus responsible for chytridiomycosis (an infectious disease) caused enormous mortality, causing the disappearance of 30 species.
“That’s scary. An indicator of our impact on nature ”, lamented Lambertini.
Society, from “sad to worried”
The new Index was published together with a study prepared by more than 40 academic institutions and NGOs that lists the ways to stop and reverse the losses caused by the action of man.
The research, published by the journal Nature, concludes that reducing food waste and favoring healthier and more environmentally friendly diets could contain degradation.
Combined with a radical conservation effort, these measures could prevent more than two-thirds of future losses in biodiversity, calculate the authors.
“We must act now. The pace of recovery is generally much slower ”than losses, said David Leclere, lead author of the study and a researcher at Austria’s International Institute of Applied System Analysis.
“If we delay, there will be more losses and it will take decades to recover them,” continued Leclere, admitting, however, that some losses are “irreversible” if a species has been extinct, for example.
Lambertini explained that, just like climate change, societies are increasingly aware of the link between the state of the planet and human health.
“Before, people were sad because of the degradation of nature, now they are starting to worry.”
“We still have a moral duty to co-exist with life on the planet, but now we also take into account the impacts on our society, our economy and, consequently, on our health”, he concluded.
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