Every year the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and their partners publish their Living Planet Report, an assessment of the status of our planet’s natural capital. The new edition was published this week and, in the words of WWF International Director General Marco Lambertini, it’s “not for the faint-hearted”. The Report measures three different key indicators – the Living Planet Index (LPI), the ecological footprint, and the water footprint.
Neither of these is good news. Here are the main findings from the Living Planet Report 2014
The LPI measures population trends in more than 10,000 vertebrate species – mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians. And this year, after the methods for measuring the LPI were revised, the indicator revealed a decrease of 52% among vertebrate population between1979-2010. The decline is higher in freshwater species, reaching 76%, against 39% in marine and terrestrial species. Unsurprisingly, the greatest losses are in fast-developing areas, South America and the Asia-Pacific region. What are the main factors? Well, it’s a mix of the usual suspects – habitat loss and fragmentation, pollution, invasive species, and overexploitation – especially for marine species. And while protected areas are not a universal solution, the assessment reveals that declines are significantly smaller (18%) in them.
While the LPI got everybody talking, the report also confirmed some other scary figures as well. Our global ecological footprint is still too large – at the rate we are currently using our resources, we would need 1.5 Earths each year. The ecological footprint of developed countries is 5 times larger than the one of the developing world. Not good. And we are consuming too much water – to the point where 1/3 of the global population will go through water scarcity at least one month every year. It seems like a whole lot of bad news. Human wellbeing depends on these ecosystem services, and environmental change affects everyone on the planet. However, given how rural communities depend on their natural resources, the global poor are the most affected.
So, is the future as grim as it sounds? Not necessarily. The report ends with a positive note, outlining the strategy to overcome these challenges under the One Planet Perspective. Nothing new, really. Preserving natural capital, by restoring habitats and extending the protected area network. Produce better, striving for sustainability. And last, but not least, consume more wisely – something we can all do our part in.
Want to know more? Go here to download the report!
Nick is a conservation biologist who holds degrees from Bangor University, Wales and the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. Originally from Sardinia, Italy, he spent the past few years studying and working in Europe and Africa. He enjoys travelling, good food, coffee and wildlife.