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"We are destroying our capacity to live on this planet in the long-term"

Translated Friday 25 November 2016, by Claire Shires

The world populations of mammals, fish, amphibians and reptiles have plummeted by nearly 60% since 1970. The cause is mainly human, which is why we also have the power to reverse this catastrophe. This is the message that WWF wants to get across.

“Biodiversity will continue to fall, and the natural world that we know today will fall to pieces due to one caretaker” warned the Director General of WWF International, Marco Lambertini, who published an inventory of the planet. “The decline suffered by the populations of wild species is more and more worrying. It will be on average [a decline of] 67% from here to 2020, if nothing is done to stop this pattern.”

To measure this evolution, WWF, mostly in collaboration with the London Zoological Society, studied 14,152 populations of 3,706 vertebrae species. Those particularly affected are fresh water animals, whose numbers are in freefall: an 81% decline on average between 1970 and 2012. They are victims of overexploitation, sometimes involuntary (when they are accidentally caught in nets) like river dolphins, as well as the deterioration and loss of their habitats.

The numbers of terrestrial species have fallen by 38%. Due to poaching, the number of African elephants for example, has dropped by 111,000 elephants since 2006, to reach a current ceiling of 415,000, according to the latest data. The populations of thousands of marine species have fallen by 36%. A third of shark and ray species are now threatened by extinction, largely due to overfishing.

“We are currently seeing a decline of life[forms] on this planet for which we are partially responsible (…) it is a major risk factor for us”, revealed Pascal Canfin, Director General of WWF France. “When living [creatures] disappear, then natural resources will also disappear. And if we destroy these natural resources, we destroy our capacity to live on this planet in the long term.” “Humanity is putting (…) itself in danger”
In general, the threat most often faced by declining populations is the loss or degradation of their habitat by agricultural activities, forest exploitation, mine extraction, transport, energy production... Climate change, for the moment, has had only "relatively marginal impact (…) because we have increased global warming by only one degree” compared to the pre-industrial era. But if temperatures begin to increase rapidly due to gas emissions causing the greenhouse effect, which is directly linked to human activity, scientists guarantee devastating effects for man and ecosystems, such as floods, droughts, storms…

This year, humanity has been living ‘on credit’ since 8th August. Currently, humans need 1.6 planets. But the world population, at 7.4 million people today, will reach 9.7 million in 2050. On this date, if things carry on as they are, we will need two planets.

The infogram has not been translated, but can be if needed.

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