Animal Populations Fell by 68% in 50 Years and It’s Getting Worse

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A patch of forest is cleared with fire in the Amazon basin in northwestern Brazil.  Photographer: Lula Sampaio/AFP via Getty Images

The world is losing its mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish, and with them, the security of ecosystems that have supported humanity since it first emerged.

That’s the conclusion of the Living Planet Report 2020, a biannual assessment by World Wildlife Fund and the Zoological Society of London, which records the decline in vertebrate life. This year’s report, released Wednesday, shows that these animal communities shrunk on average 68% between 1970 and 2016. Parts of the world are much worse off. The tropical Americas have seen animal populations decline 94% in the same period. The size of observed animal communities in or near freshwater globally have fallen by 84%.

The authors put half the blame on changes to how we use land and the sea, citing such things as clearing ecologically important forest and freshwater use. Overfishing and hunting, invasive species, pollution and climate change round out the main causes of the global animal population crash. 

The report delivers a tough overall message. It suggests that continued human abuse of the planet may lead to collapse of the very natural systems and resources that allowed global civilization and modern societies to persist in the first place. And, they say,  humanity is demonstrably to blame, and the damage is unprecedented in speed and vastness within human history.

Story continued here: Bloomberg