November 30, 2022

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Declining Vertebrate Populations, Growing Role of Global Warming… What to Remember from WWF’s “Living Planet” Report

Every two years, the NGO analyzes biodiversity loss on a planetary scale to “lay the groundwork for future action by providing elements for reflection”.

Lowland gorillas, lynxes, sharks, coral reefs… “The symbols of biodiversity, which are vital to the balance of our ecosystems, are declining at an alarming rate.” The “Living Planet” report, published every two years by WWF, takes stock of the situation Global biodiversity and the health of the planet. In the latest version made public on Thursday, October 13, the association is concerned of one “Disastrous Fall” Populations of vertebrates – fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles – are worldwide.

argue that Abundant declines are early warning indicators of overall ecosystem health. is long Calls on governments to adopt “An Ambitious Global Pact to Save Wildlife”On occasion 15th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15) in Montreal in December. But first, here are his results.

69% of vertebrates have disappeared between 1970 and 2018

It is a “Dangerous Figure”, The NGO’s program director, Arnaud Kafier, said this while presenting the report to reporters on Monday. : Between 1970 and 2018, vertebrate populations declined by 69%. In its previous edition published in 2020, the NGO calculated this average population decline – Through its Living Planet Index or “LPI”. – 68%, compared to 50% in 2012. This index was calculated from scientific data collected over 32 years. 000 More than 5 people 230 Vertebrate species summarize the variations in animal populations monitored around the world. The higher it is, the more threatened the species. LPI increased from 68% to 69% in two years. “It’s hugeArnaud Gauffier observed. “It’s a disaster that this index hasn’t improved.”

The report points to examples of species on “borrowed time” that have recorded alarming declines since the 1970s. : Eastern lowland gorilla populations have declined by 80%, African forest elephants by 86%. Warm-water coral reefs have lost 50% of their populations, and sea rays and sharks have declined by 71%, according to the report.

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Global warming increasingly threatens biodiversity

Habitat destruction associated with land conversion for agriculture and food, overexploitation of species and resources, pollution, introduction of invasive alien species and global warming are major threats to biodiversity. While land-use change is a major driver of biodiversity loss, the report warns that global warming is playing an increasingly important role in the decline of vertebrate species.

“If we don’t limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, climate change will almost certainly become the leading cause of biodiversity loss in the coming decades.”

WWF

In its 2022 “Living Planet” report

Climate crisis and biodiversity loss “Two sides of the same coin”, Still committed to the WWF. It has already caused an increase in average global temperatures, which have risen by 1.2 degrees Celsius since the start of the industrial era “Mass Death Events, as well as the First Extinctions of Species”, Explains the statement to that effect “Each additional degree should increase these losses”.

As an example, the document specifically cites warm water coral reefs. Half of them “Disappeared for various reasons”WWF explains that it fears global warming will deliver the final blow. “Warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius will result in the loss of 70-90% of warm water coral reefs and warming of 2 degrees Celsius will result in a loss of more than 99%.”

Similarly, leatherback turtles in France, particularly in the straits of the Maroni River on the border of Guyana and Suriname, have seen their populations collapse by 95% under the combined effects of bycatch associated with fishing. The ratio between male and female births is imbalanced at temperature. Further, “If we continue to approach these emergencies as two separate issues, neither will be effectively addressed.” The report hammers home the role of ecosystems in the fight against global warming.

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A leatherback turtle on the beach at Guyana's Amana Nature Reserve in 2011.  (Jobart / Heart of Nature / Siba)

10 million hectares of forests are being destroyed every year

Forests and other mangroves are essential carbon sinks, WWF details. “We are losing about 10 million hectares every year forests, an area equal to that of Portugal”, He warns, stressing the interdependence of climate and natural crises First Joint Report of the IPCC andIntergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES)* — is often referred to “IPCC of Biodiversity” – in 2021.

Long It also points to the advantages of working in a coordinated manner on these two fronts : “LProtected areas managed by local communities show thriving biodiversity, and restoring ecosystems through nature-based solutions can benefit biodiversity and the climate (…)”, She points out.

In this context, WWF considers “Achieving the same level of engagement is essential [dans la lutte contre l’effondrement de la biodiversité] We’re Starting to See Climate Action” and encourages A target “Positive Nature Balance by 2030”. The goal is to reverse the population curve within eight years “Return to Satisfactory Level of Biodiversity by 2050”The NGO’s director general, Véronique Andrieux, drew parallels with the “net zero” ambition required of climate actors in front of the press.

Freshwater ecosystems are severely affected

Freshwater environments, it is the host “A rich biodiversity, including one-third of vertebrate species”, Particularly affected by this degradation are the average population declines of 83%, According to WWF.

To explain this situation, the NGO has, among others, said that pollution – Pesticides, plastics or industrial and agricultural wastes etc -, water withdrawal or diversion of flows, overexploitation of species, as well as introduction of invasive species. “Because freshwater environments are so connected, threats can move from place to place more easily.”In this report, he explains that between 1970 and 2016 the LPI of migratory freshwater fish showed an average decline of 76%.

“Only 37% of rivers have more than 1 000 km are still ‘natural’ along their entire length”, highlights freshwater species and reporting, including migratory fish, collide with “Existence of Dams and Reservoirs [qui constituent] A threat to their lives. Thanks to the removal of two dams and the reconstruction of other dams in a river in the northeastern United States, the alewife, the river herring population was able to recover, the report describes. They passed “From a few hundred to almost 2 million over five years, which has allowed the fishery to resume”.

Latin America is the most affected region

According to WWF, the situation varies greatly from one ecosystem to another. Threats and their intensity vary according to geographic regions. “Threats from agriculture, hunting and logging are mostly in the tropics, while pollution is high in Europe.“, he explains. However, Latin America-Caribbean is experiencing the largest regional decline in average population abundance, with an LPI of 94% between 1970 and 2018, the NGO warns. Second place is Africa (66%) , followed by Asia and the Pacific (55%), North America (20%) and finally Europe (18%).

In Amazon, “Recent research indicates that we are getting dangerously close to a tipping point where our largest rainforests will no longer function”The report warns.

This aerial photo shows a deforested area near Sinope in Brazil's Mato Grosso state on August 7, 2020.  (FLORIAN PLAUCHEUR/AFP)

* This link is in English.