Earth has lost half of its wildlife in the past 40 years

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Inglonias
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Earth has lost half of its wildlife in the past 40 years

Postby Inglonias » Wed Oct 01, 2014 1:02 am UTC

Source here.

Spoiler:
The number of wild animals on Earth has halved in the past 40 years, according to a new analysis. Creatures across land, rivers and the seas are being decimated as humans kill them for food in unsustainable numbers, while polluting or destroying their habitats, the research by scientists at WWF and the Zoological Society of London found.

“If half the animals died in London zoo next week it would be front page news,” said Professor Ken Norris, ZSL’s director of science. “But that is happening in the great outdoors. This damage is not inevitable but a consequence of the way we choose to live.” He said nature, which provides food and clean water and air, was essential for human wellbeing.

“We have lost one half of the animal population and knowing this is driven by human consumption, this is clearly a call to arms and we must act now,” said Mike Barratt, director of science and policy at WWF. He said more of the Earth must be protected from development and deforestation, while food and energy had to be produced sustainably.

The steep decline of animal, fish and bird numbers was calculated by analysing 10,000 different populations, covering 3,000 species in total. This data was then, for the first time, used to create a representative “Living Planet Index” (LPI), reflecting the state of all 45,000 known vertebrates.

“We have all heard of the FTSE 100 index, but we have missed the ultimate indicator, the falling trend of species and ecosystems in the world,” said Professor Jonathan Baillie, ZSL’s director of conservation. “If we get [our response] right, we will have a safe and sustainable way of life for the future,” he said.

If not, he added, the overuse of resources would ultimately lead to conflicts. He said the LPI was an extremely robust indicator and had been adopted by UN’s internationally-agreed Convention on Biological Diversity as key insight into biodiversity.

A second index in the new Living Planet report calculates humanity’s “ecological footprint”, ie the scale at which it is using up natural resources. Currently, the global population is cutting down trees faster than they regrow, catching fish faster than the oceans can restock, pumping water from rivers and aquifers faster than rainfall can replenish them and emitting more climate-warming carbon dioxide than oceans and forests can absorb.

The report concludes that today’s average global rate of consumption would need 1.5 planet Earths to sustain it. But four planets would be required to sustain US levels of consumption, or 2.5 Earths to match UK consumption levels.

The fastest decline among the animal populations were found in freshwater ecosystems, where numbers have plummeted by 75% since 1970. “Rivers are the bottom of the system,” said Dave Tickner, WWF’s chief freshwater adviser. “Whatever happens on the land, it all ends up in the rivers.” For example, he said, tens of billions of tonnes of effluent are dumped in the Ganges in India every year.

As well as pollution, dams and the increasing abstraction of water damage freshwater systems. There are more than 45,000 major dams – 15m or higher – around the world. “These slice rivers up into a thousand pieces,” Tickner said, preventing the healthy flow of water. While population has risen fourfold in the last century, water use has gone up sevenfold. “We are living thirstier and thirstier lives,” he said.

But while freshwater species such as the European eel and the hellbender salamander in the US have crashed, recoveries have also been seen. Otters were near extinct in England but thanks to conservation efforts now live in every county.

The number of animals living on the land has fallen by 40% since 1970. From forest elephants in central Africa, where poaching rates now exceed birth rates, to the Hoolock gibbon in Bangladesh and European snakes like the meadow and asp vipers, destruction of habitat has seen populations tumble. But again intensive conservation effort can turn declines around, as has happened with tigers in Nepal.

Marine animal populations have also fallen by 40% overall, with turtles suffering in particular. Hunting, the destruction of nesting grounds and getting drowned in fishing nets have seen turtle numbers fall by 80%. Some birds have been heavily affected too. The number of grey partridges in the UK sank by 50% since 1970 due to the intensification of farming, while curlew sandpipers in Australia lost 80% of their number in the 20 years to 2005.

The biggest declines in animal numbers have been seen in low-income, developing nations, while conservation efforts in rich nations have seen small improvements overall. But the big declines in wildlife in rich nations had already occurred long before the new report’s baseline year of 1970 – the last wolf in the UK was shot in 1680.

Also, by importing food and other goods produced via habitat destruction in developing nations, rich nations are “outsourcing” wildlife decline to those countries, said Norris. For example, a third of all the products of deforestation such as timber, beef and soya were exported to the EU between 1990 and 2008.

David Nussbaum, chief executive of WWF-UK said: “The scale of the destruction highlighted in this report should be a wake-up call for us all. But 2015 – when the countries of the world are due to come together to agree on a new global climate agreement, as well as a set of sustainable development goals – presents us with a unique opportunity to reverse the trends.

“We all – politicians, businesses and people – have an interest, and a responsibility, to act to ensure we protect what we all value: a healthy future for both people and nature.”


Well... crap.

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Re: Earth has lost half of its wildlife in the past 40 years

Postby Brace » Wed Oct 01, 2014 1:19 am UTC

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Last edited by Brace on Mon Oct 06, 2014 12:35 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Earth has lost half of its wildlife in the past 40 years

Postby Soteria » Wed Oct 01, 2014 1:31 am UTC

Is there some kind of peer-reviewed report, or did they just publish it on their website/to journalists?

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Re: Earth has lost half of its wildlife in the past 40 years

Postby CorruptUser » Wed Oct 01, 2014 2:06 pm UTC

nidhish wrote:hah this stuff is quiet depressing ...what have we done to mother nature .. :(


She had it coming. It's her fault that procreation and *ahem* intense social interaction are linked, rather than humans naturally being able to have kids only when they want to. This is the main reason the world is a horrible place.

Did you know that infanticide was practiced more often than not? If there wasn't enough food to go around, someone had to die, and if someone had to die, better it be someone you aren't attached to. The main alternative was constant warfare. The Greeks practiced gender selective infanticide, which had the unfortunate side effect of not stopping the constant warfare since if the only way to get laid was to murder the shit out of your neighbors, and you had no qualms about killing your own children...

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Re: Earth has lost half of its wildlife in the past 40 years

Postby Mutex » Wed Oct 01, 2014 2:13 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:
nidhish wrote:hah this stuff is quiet depressing ...what have we done to mother nature .. :(


She had it coming. It's her fault that procreation and *ahem* intense social interaction are linked, rather than humans naturally being able to have kids only when they want to. This is the main reason the world is a horrible place.


Is it? I thought the reason developing countries had so many children was high mortality rates (although clearly still much lower than birth rates) and needing lots of support to help make ends meet. So, weirdly, bringing developing countries up to EU / US standards of living as soon as possible would lead to a more sustainable, stable world - even though our resource requirements would initially increase they'd then plateau, as the world's population wouldn't be increasing.

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Re: Earth has lost half of its wildlife in the past 40 years

Postby CorruptUser » Wed Oct 01, 2014 3:18 pm UTC

That's only for things like disease and war. For things like famine, having more kids reduces the number that will survive.

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Re: Earth has lost half of its wildlife in the past 40 years

Postby krogoth » Wed Oct 01, 2014 3:52 pm UTC

Less animals so it's easier to for the next Noah to prepare for the next flood.
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Re: Earth has lost half of its wildlife in the past 40 years

Postby Soteria » Wed Oct 01, 2014 5:05 pm UTC

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news ... picks=true
National Geographic's take on this is somewhat cautious:

Spoiler:
The overall message is that biodiversity continues to decline, says Stuart Pimm, a conservation ecologist at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, who recently published a study in the journal Science on biodiversity and extinction rates. (See "Species Extinction Happening 1,000 Times Faster Because of Humans?")

But Pimm is skeptical of the approach WWF used to calculate the species loss. "I'm not a fan of this planetary index because it mixes a lot of different numbers together in an essentially arbitrary way-therefore, it's hard to know what exactly is meant by a 50 percent loss of vertebrates over the last 40 years."

For instance, you can't put British songbirds in the same category as West African lions—"it's an apples and oranges and pears and grapes and cookies index that lumps a whole bunch of things together in a way that requires a lot of effort to dissect all the different pieces," he said.

"It's not 'we lost half of all vertebrates'—it's more complex than that," Pimm says.

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Re: Earth has lost half of its wildlife in the past 40 years

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Oct 01, 2014 6:25 pm UTC

I'm on board with the Nat. Geographic interpretation here. Yes, biodiversity loss is a real thing, but...a flat percentage really just smacks of shock journalism. It's an arbitrary number assigned by an arbitrary means of counting up all life on earth. Just seems subjective as hell.

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Re: Earth has lost half of its wildlife in the past 40 years

Postby duckshirt » Thu Oct 02, 2014 5:09 am UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Yes, biodiversity loss is a real thing, but...a flat percentage really just smacks of shock journalism. It's an arbitrary number assigned by an arbitrary means of counting up all life on earth. Just seems subjective as hell.

Exactly, from the start it should be obvious that that stat is misleading. If it's accurate, I'm guessing the biggest driver of it is the declining fish population? Which is a well known problem already but to lump all wildlife together into one percentage seems pretty useless.
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Re: Earth has lost half of its wildlife in the past 40 years

Postby Derek » Thu Oct 02, 2014 6:30 am UTC

What are they even measuring? Biomass? Number of species? Number of individuals?

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Re: Earth has lost half of its wildlife in the past 40 years

Postby BattleMoose » Thu Oct 02, 2014 6:32 am UTC

The general audience doesn't seem to be able to handle anything more than a single number. I am not supporting the presentation. Just pointing out that nothing else has really worked to get the message out and/or accepted. At least we should be trying different approaches.

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Re: Earth has lost half of its wildlife in the past 40 years

Postby Mutex » Thu Oct 02, 2014 9:59 am UTC

Derek wrote:What are they even measuring? Biomass? Number of species? Number of individuals?


Number of individuals, of vertebrates.

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Re: Earth has lost half of its wildlife in the past 40 years

Postby setzer777 » Fri Oct 03, 2014 1:23 pm UTC

If things continue the way they're going, I wonder which species will come out on top? Or will something new have to descend from microbial life to fill the niche humans empty out with our activities?
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Re: Earth has lost half of its wildlife in the past 40 years

Postby Chen » Fri Oct 03, 2014 1:28 pm UTC

setzer777 wrote:If things continue the way they're going, I wonder which species will come out on top? Or will something new have to descend from microbial life to fill the niche humans empty out with our activities?


Are you talking about species other than humans? Because even at the rate we're destroying the environment, it's going to be a LONG time before we get to the point where humanity can no longer survive on the planet. Sure there are many places where people will die due to rising waters or the like, but considering the technology we have at our disposal, it seems very unlikely we'll completely make the planet uninhabitable for us.

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Re: Earth has lost half of its wildlife in the past 40 years

Postby setzer777 » Fri Oct 03, 2014 2:03 pm UTC

I didn't mean us going extinct, just potentially creating ecological vacancies for other species to fill.
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Re: Earth has lost half of its wildlife in the past 40 years

Postby Whizbang » Fri Oct 03, 2014 2:08 pm UTC

Meh. As long as we have a way to preserve the animal's DNA in some way, we can always re-introduce them later, once we've stabilized our resource consumption.

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Re: Earth has lost half of its wildlife in the past 40 years

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Oct 03, 2014 4:20 pm UTC

BattleMoose wrote:The general audience doesn't seem to be able to handle anything more than a single number. I am not supporting the presentation. Just pointing out that nothing else has really worked to get the message out and/or accepted. At least we should be trying different approaches.


The issue with "the public is stupid, so we HAVE to feed them bullshit" is that this is a terrible way to get smarter people.

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Re: Earth has lost half of its wildlife in the past 40 years

Postby Whizbang » Fri Oct 03, 2014 4:29 pm UTC

Ah, but smart people can be born to stupid parents, and stupid people can be born of smart parents, so not feeding stupid people in the hopes of somehow achieving a smarter species is not effective.

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Re: Earth has lost half of its wildlife in the past 40 years

Postby Mutex » Fri Oct 03, 2014 5:48 pm UTC

Whizbang wrote:Ah, but smart people can be born to stupid parents, and stupid people can be born of smart parents, so not feeding stupid people in the hopes of somehow achieving a smarter species is not effective.


I don't think Tyndmyr said anything about literally feeding people. Much less suggesting we let stupid people starve to death...

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Re: Earth has lost half of its wildlife in the past 40 years

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Oct 03, 2014 7:34 pm UTC

Whizbang wrote:Ah, but smart people can be born to stupid parents, and stupid people can be born of smart parents, so not feeding stupid people in the hopes of somehow achieving a smarter species is not effective.


More of an educational issue here. Teach people lies, and the dumb people problem doesn't get fixed. Or at least, it gets fixed slower than if they learned actual information.

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Re: Earth has lost half of its wildlife in the past 40 years

Postby addams » Sun Oct 05, 2014 4:38 am UTC

setzer777 wrote:If things continue the way they're going, I wonder which species will come out on top? Or will something new have to descend from microbial life to fill the niche humans empty out with our activities?

This way of thinking was very popular in the 1960's and 1970's.
There was even a little experimentation.

What if we destroy life with Atomic Bombs.....
What if we can't get the DDT out of the system....
What if....

Cockroaches
Roaches would inherit our world.

I witnessed a filthy environment get cleaned up.
I went to Alaska to see a Bald Eagle.
They were extraordinarily rare in the lower states.

The Bald Eagle, Osprey and Hawk are back.
It took forty years to clean things up.

Humans damaged the animals and plants.
They worked together to repair the harm.

Yes. In the US there is a strong Anti-Environment, Anti-Intellectual, Anti-Government...Anti-Everything except Guns movement.
Those people are powerful and Mean. Their thinking has been done for them. They only need to Act. Mean bunch of people.

Those people may Rule the Day.
People of good will may rule.

Don't dispair.
We did lose some.
We saved a bunch, too.

The number of large birds that are Thriving is impressive.
I see them nearly everyday.

The environmental movement on the west coast was a success.
AssHoles are working to undo the good that was done.

If you hurry, you can see a thriving natural world.
Even the Salmon are back in sustainable numbers.

Do not dispair.
We can be responsible Stewards.

It is our proper place to do so.
We have the tools to do the job.
Life is, just, an exchange of electrons; It is up to us to give it meaning.

We are all in The Gutter.
Some of us see The Gutter.
Some of us see The Stars.
by mr. Oscar Wilde.

Those that want to Know; Know.
Those that do not Know; Don't tell them.
They do terrible things to people that Tell Them.


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