Study: Humans to wipe out two-thirds of wildlife by 2020 | News | DW | 27.10.2016
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Study: Humans to wipe out two-thirds of wildlife by 2020

Wild animals are disappearing at an "unprecedented" rate, and humans have already caused their populations to drop nearly 60 percent since 1970, a WWF report says. Earth has entered a new "mass extinction event."

The study should serve as a "wake-up call" to promote recovery of animal populations, Ken Norris of the Zoological Society of London said on Thursday.

The data provided by the Zoological Society has been compiled and published by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) for their Living Planet Report. In the study, the scientists paint a grim picture on vertebrates living in the wild, including mammals, bird, fish, amphibians and reptiles.

According to the document, the number of wild animals has plunged 58 percent between 1970 and 2012. If the trends do not reverse, the populations are set to reach a 67 percent drop by 2020.

"Wildlife is disappearing within our lifetimes at an unprecedented rate," Marco Lambertini, WWF International chief said in a statement. "These changes are critical to humanity," he added.

"Biodiversity forms the foundation of healthy forests, rivers and oceans. Take away the species, and these ecosystems collapse, along with clean air, water, food and climate services they provide us."

New mass extinction

Humans harm wildlife in several ways, most notably by destroying animals' habitats, overconsumption and pollution, according to the report. Factory fishing, for example, has emptied the seas of 40 percent of sea life, and nine out of ten fisheries are either over- or full-fished globally.

Conservation experts now agree that Earth has entered the sixth "mass extinction event" in the last half-billion years. These events are marked by species disappearing at least 1,000 faster than the usual rate.

Paris accord boosts hope

However, there is still a chance to reverse the trend, the report said.

"I don't speak at all about doom and gloom - we do see a lot of positive signs," WWF global conservation director Deon Nel told Reuters.

One of those signs is the Paris climate accord, in addition to a newly launched set of UN measures for sustainable development by 2030.

"We have succeeded in making a strong business case for climate," said WWF's chief Lambertini said. "Now we have to make an equally strong business case for conservation of natural systems."

This initiative is likely to be even more difficult, as negative impacts of disrupted eco-systems are "less direct and less tangible on a global scale," according to Lambertini.

dj/gsw (AFP, Reuters)

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