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WWF’s Living Planet Report Reveals Two-Thirds Decline in Vertebrate Populations Size on Average Since 1970

Kuala Lumpur, 10 September 2020 – Global populations* of vertebrate species such as mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish have suffered an average two-thirds decline in less than half a century due in large part to the very same environmental destruction which is contributing to the emergence of zoonotic diseases such as COVID-19, according to WWF’s Living Planet Report 2020 (LPR 2020), released today.
The Living Planet Index (LPI), provided by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), shows that factors believed to increase the planet’s vulnerability to pandemics - including land-use change and the use and trade of wildlife - were also some of the drivers behind the 68% average decline in global vertebrate species populations between 1970 and 2016.
“The Living Planet Report 2020 underlines how humanity’s increasing destruction of nature is having catastrophic impacts not only on wildlife populations but also on human health and all aspects of our lives,” said Marco Lambertini, Director General, WWF International.

The LPR 2020 presents a comprehensive overview of the state of our natural world through the LPI, which tracks trends in global wildlife abundance, and contributions from more than 125 experts from around the world. It shows that the main cause of the dramatic decline in species populations on land observed in the LPI is habitat loss and degradation, including deforestation, driven by how we as humanity produce food.
The LPI, which tracked almost 21,000 populations of more than 4,000 vertebrate species between 1970 and 2016, also shows that wildlife populations found in freshwater habitats have suffered a decline of 84% - the starkest average population decline in any biome, equivalent to 4% per year since 1970.
The LPR 2020 also includes pioneering modelling which shows that without further efforts to counteract habitat loss and degradation, global biodiversity will continue to decline. Based on a paper, ‘Bending the curve of terrestrial biodiversity needs an integrated strategy,’ co-authored by WWF and more than 40 NGOs and academic institutions and published today in Nature, the modelling makes clear that stabilising and reversing the loss of nature caused by humans’ destruction of natural habitats will only be possible if bolder, more ambitious conservation efforts are embraced and transformational changes made to the way we produce and consume food. Changes needed include making food production and trade more efficient and ecologically sustainable, reducing waste, and favouring healthier and more environmentally-friendly diets. The modelling also indicates that if the world carries on with “business as usual”, rates of biodiversity loss seen since 1970 will continue over the coming years.

“What’s alarming is that we know why this is happening, and it’s our 21st century lifestyle. In the midst of a global pandemic, it is now more important than ever to take unprecedented and coordinated global action to both reverse the loss of biodiversity and wildlife populations across the globe and protect our future health and livelihoods. Our own survival as a species depends on it,” said Sophia Lim, CEO/Executive Director of WWF-Malaysia.

The LPR 2020 launches less than a week before the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, when leaders are expected to review the progress made on the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The UNGA 2020 will bring together world leaders, businesses and civil society to develop the post-2020 framework for action for global biodiversity and thus marks a milestone moment to set the groundwork for an urgently needed New Deal for Nature and People. WWF will be urging leaders to demonstrate ambition and accelerated action on nature at the UNGA 2020, before taking transformative decisions at a series of critical summits on the environment and climate in 2021. 

For further information, please refer to the attached press release. The full Living Planet Report 2020 and summary versions of the report are available here: wwf.org.my/livingplanetreport2020

> Download Full Press Release

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