Global biodiversity down by a third in 35 years

Posted: 21 May 2008

Biodiversity has declined by almost a third in the last 35 years, a new report reveals. Marine species such as swordfish were particularly hard hit, falling by 28 per cent between 1995 and 2005 alone, while marine birds have suffered a rapid decline of about 30 per cent since the mid 1990s.

The Living Planet Index, which tracks nearly 4,000 populations of species, shows that land based, marine and freshwater species fell overall by 27 per cent between 1970 and 2005.

As nations meet for the Convention of Biological Diversity in Bonn, which continues until the end of the month, WWF's report shows that governments are not on track to meet their target to achieve by 2010 a esignificant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss.

White-rumped vulture
White-rumped vulture
While nature continues to decline, a previous WWF report, in 2006, concluded that we are now globally consuming about 25 per cent more natural resources than the planet can replace. The UK alone, is generating carbon emissions and consuming natural resources at such a rate that, if it was duplicated evrywhere, would need three planets to support the global population. WWF says this highlights the need to move from a three to one planet future.

Colin Butfield, Head of Campaigns at WWF-UK, said: gBiodiversity underpins the health of the planet and has a direct impact on all our lives. So it is alarming that despite of an increased awareness of environmental issues we continue to see a downtrend trend.

"However,he added,"there are small signs of hope and if government grasps what is left of this rapidly closing window of opportunity, we can begin to reverse this trend and move away from three planet living to a one planet future."

Scalloped hammerhead
Scalloped hammerhead
The Living Planet Index reveals that land-based species fell by 25 per cent, marine species by 28 per cent and freshwater species by 29 per cent between 1970 and 2005. Habitat destruction and wildlife trade are the major causes of this decline. And, over the next 30 years climate change will be an increasingly important factor affecting species.

WWF is calling on governments during the Biodiversity Conference to:

  • develop joint action plans nvironment, agriculture, food, water, finance, and health, to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010.
  • live up to their commitment to put in place effective protected area systems.
  • adopt a target to achieve zero net annual deforestation by 2020.

Note: The Living Planet Index tracks nearly 241 fish, 83 amphibian, 40 reptile, 811 bird and 302 mammal species to compile its findings.