Global wildlife populations halve in 40 years

Polar ice from space

Global wildlife populations have halved in just 40 years, according to the tenth edition of WWF's Living Planet Report 2014. Released today, the biennial report also highlights the urgent need for solutions to be found to humanity’s increasing demand on the world’s natural resources.

Key findings:

  • Populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish have declined by an average of 52% since the 1970s.
  • Freshwater species populations have suffered a 76% decline, an average loss almost double that of land and marine species.
  • The worst declines have been observed in the Tropics.

The report draws upon the Living Planet Index, a database maintained by the Zoological Society of London, which monitors trends in over 10,000 populations of 3038 species since the 1970s. It also looks at how human consumption levels have increased in the same time period. It shows that the biggest recorded threat to biodiversity comes from the combined impacts of habitat loss and degradation, driven by unsustainable human consumption.

Climate change is also noted as becoming an increasing concern. The findings are published days after the UN Climate Summit in New York, concurs with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that climate change is already impacting on the health of the planet.

While recognising that biodiversity loss around the world is at critical levels, the Living Planet Report 2014 also provides solutions for a healthy planet. It calls for better ways of managing, using and sharing natural resources within the planet’s limitations – so as to ensure food, water and energy security for all.

In 2015, world leaders will agree two potentially critical global agreements: the post-2015 development framework - which will include Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved by all countries by 2030; and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. WWF is working hard to ensure that the right environmental framework underpins these agreements and that the fundamental link between poverty, climate change and ecosystems degradation is acknowledged and tackled in an integrated way.

WWF’s One Planet Perspective, outlined in the report, shows how we can reverse the trends outlined in the report through a series of practical decisions. We need to divert investment away from the causes of environmental problems and towards solutions; make fair, far-sighted and ecologically informed choices about how we manage resources; preserve our natural capital; produce better and consume more wisely.

The Living Planet Report 2014 is produced in conjuction with the Zoological Society of London, the Global Footprint Network and the Water Footprint Network.

Juruena National Park – Safe for now

Juruena National Park

Planned dams in Brazil's fourth largest national park omitted from 10 year energy plan.

Two dams planned for construction inside one of Brazil’s most important national parks are no longer considered in the governments ten year plan for energy expansion, running until 2023. The potential construction of São Simão and Salto Augusto dams had been tabled by the government’s Energy Research Company. Extremely concerned by the social and environmental cost of these plans, WWF-Brazil responded with a large public campaign.

If built, the two dams would flood about 40,000 hectares in the Juruena National Park, and other state parks and indigenous lands. Juruena National Park, created in June 2006, is the fourth largest national park in Brazil covering an area equivalent to the size of Israel. The park has greatest diversity and productivity of freshwater on the planet and the dams would affect the survival of 42 endangered or endemic species, as well as all the rapids of the Juruena River, preventing vital ecological processes to migratory fish.

This was a red line for WWF-Brazil who launched in June this year the SOS Juruena campaign, to fight against these dams and for the continued protection of the Juruena National Park. The campaign requested civil society to ask government not to allow the construction of dams within the park. Through an online petition, the action so far registered about 25,000 signatures from Brazil and around the world. WWF-UK supporters were among those supporting the campaign.

The official release from the government cites protracted processes and long delays in environmental licensing for construction of dams in protected areas as the reason for not including these two dams in the ten year plan.

Mauro Armelin, Director of Conservation at WWF-Brazil argues that the argument for not building the dams should centre upon the environmental complexity of the site and the rich biodiversity of the Park. "Juruena is one of the largest parks in the country and is located in a mosaic of protected areas, in other words, it is a key region to curb deforestation, unplanned occupation and land grabbing. The region is of extreme biological importance for birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and plant species threatened by extinction." he explains.

Mauro goes on to explain that in his eyes the SOS Juruena campaign played an important role in the governments decision, "We are confident that the campaign helped to achieve this fantastic result. Today we celebrate this excellent outcome for the Brazilian society, together with all those who supported us and who have also acted in defense of Juruena and the Tapajos Basin. Our struggle continues so that this decision is not revised in the coming years and the conservation of this unique biodiversity becomes the main argument for a final decision on the non-deployment of these plants." celebrates Armelin.

This decision is also being welcomed at WWF-UK who supported the campaign. Damian Fleming, Head of Programmes for Brazil and the Amazon at WWF-UK said: “We would like to thank all of our supporters here in the UK who supported this campaign. It is great to see so many people here in the UK concerned for the protection of the Amazon and willing to add their voice. This now guarantees the integrity of one of Brazil’s most important parks until 2023, and we will continue to be vigilant to ensure that such projects are not included in the future”.

Damian reiterated WWF 's support for sustainable development in Brazil. “WWF absolutely recognizes the need for Brazil to support a growing economy and population. Planned in the right way, hydropower plays an important part in Brazil’s energy matrix. However our studies have shown that these two dams have questionable benefits to local communities and come at a very high environmental cost. There are certainly much better alternatives to meet Brazil’s energy needs including a huge potential for wind and solar power”.

Mauro agrees that it is unacceptable that protected areas created by extensive social and environmental studies, political agreements between governments and business, have their integrity threatened by unilateral decisions and lack of enforcement of basic processes such as Systematic Conservation Planning and proper consultation with civil society. "Sustainability requires transparency and broad social participation, to ensure balance between economic, social and environmental factors in the formulation of public policies, decision-making and actions that affect Brazilian territory and its citizens." Mauro adds

WWF-Brazil have important programmes of work on energy and hydropower in order to demonstrate that it is possible to meet Brazil’s growing energy needs without significant cost to the environment.

Find out more about our work on sustainable hydropower in the Amazon.

Thousands take to the streets for the world’s biggest climate march!

Supporters marching for climate change

Hundreds of thousands of people took part in the world’s biggest climate demonstration yesterday to put pressure on world leaders ahead of Tuesday’s UN Climate Summit.

From London to Santiago, and Paris to Nairobi, half a million people across the world took part in a global climate march to tell world leaders attending tomorrow’s climate summit that it’s time to take climate change seriously.

The aim hope is to keep up international momentum for tackling the climate crisis in the run-up to a global deal being agreed in Paris in 2015.

Not only did this march send a loud and clear signal to politicians that they must take urgent action; it also demonstrated that together, we can protect our planet and the things we love

We have a long and important road ahead of us, but with the fantastic turnout for yesterday’s marches, we know we’re not in this fight alone. Thank you to everyone who showed their support and helped us make history!

Now you've marched tell us why you care about climate change.