Monitored wildlife populations (including mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish) have declined by 69% between 1970 and 2018, and India is no exception. This was highlighted by the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) recently released Living Planet Report 2022.

 

Key highlights of the report

  • Since 1970, species populations have declined by 69% on average, according to this flagship WWF publication.
    • According to the WWF, freshwater populations have declined the most, by an average of 83% between 1970 and 2018.
    • Between 1970 and 2018, Latin America and the Caribbean regions experienced the greatest decline in monitored wildlife populations worldwide, with an average decline of 94%.
    • Rising temperatures are already causing mass extinctions and the first extinction of an entire species (Bramble Cay melomys – a small Australian rodent, was declared extinct after sea-level rise).
    • Warm water corals have already lost 50% of their population, and a 1.5-degree Celsius increase will result in a loss of 70-90%.
    • Despite their importance, mangroves are being deforested at a rate of 0.13% per year by aquaculture, agriculture and coastal development.
      • Mangrove loss represents a loss of habitat as well as ecosystem services for coastal communities.
      • E.g., the erosion of Sundarbans mangrove forest, has resulted in reducing land and ecosystem services for almost 10 million people who live there.
  • This is mainly due to changes in the use of sea and land, direct exploitation of organisms, climate change, pollution and invasive non-native species.
  • The report has found that agriculture is the most prevalent threat to amphibians (animals that live both on land and in water), whereas hunting and trapping are most likely to threaten birds and mammals.
  • India specific findings —
      • According to the WWF-India program director, the country’s population of honeybees and 17 species of freshwater turtles has declined during this time period.
      • According to the report, the Himalayan region and the Western Ghats are some of the most vulnerable regions in terms of biodiversity loss in the country, and increased biodiversity loss is expected in the future if temperatures rise.
      • Projects like the recent cheetah translocation are thus beneficial to species preservation, and India has seen successes like Project Tiger or projects for one-horned rhinos and lions.
      • Because of the conservation of these species, there is an umbrella effect on all other species living in that habitat.
  • Suggestions —
      • While conservation efforts are beneficial, immediate action (including bolder and more ambitious conservation efforts) is required to reverse nature loss.
      • Transformational changes are required in the way we produce and consume, such as increasing the efficiency of food production and trade, reducing waste and favouring healthier and more sustainable diets.
      • Individual small actions may not feel like enough but collectively people around the world have the power to make change.

 

What is the ‘Living Planet Report’?

  • Published biennially by WWF since 1998, the Living Planet Report is the world’s leading, science-based analysis, on the health of our planet and the impact of human activity.
  • It is based on a Living Planet Index and ecological footprint calculation.
    • The Living Planet Index, managed by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) in collaboration with the WWF, is an indicator of the state of global biological diversity based on trends in vertebrate populations of species from around the world.

 

About ‘World Wide Fund for Nature’ –

  • It was founded on 29th April 1961. Its precursor organisation was the Conservation Foundation. Its original name was World Wildlife Fund.
  • It is located in Gland, Switzerland.
  • WWF aims to conserve nature and reduce the most pressing threats to the diversity of life on Earth.
  • WWF works in the areas of climate, food, forests, fresh water, oceans and wildlife primarily.
  • It runs several projects in various fields in partnership with people, bodies and governments worldwide.
  • In species conservation, they focus on tigers, elephants, gorillas, giant pandas, sea turtles, polar bears, rhinos and whales.
  • Campaigns launched by WWF include Earth Hour and Debt-for-Nature Swap.