- Time is running out for the natural world
- at a faster rate than anyone had previously thought possible, according
to nature conservation experts.
- Humans have destroyed more that 30% of
the natural world since 1970, says the World Wide Fund for Nature, and
the situation is getting worse.
- In a report the conservation agency reveals
what it calls a Living Planet Index - a type of global health check showing
the damage that has been done to the environment in just one generation.
The WWF hopes the bleak picture will scare governments into taking action.
- Ecosystems under threat
- The report focuses on forest, freshwater
and marine ecosystems. Most alarmingly it says the populations of freshwater
animal and plant species have halved since 1970.
- Natural forests have declined by more
than 10% in the same period. The amount of forest lost every year is equivalent
in size to the area covered by England and Wales.
- The report's author, Jonathon Loh, says
that the Living Planet Index will try to track the state of the global
environment "like the Dow Jones Index tries to track the New York
- The index will be updated annually and
is available for all to see on the WWF website.
- For Mr Loh the most important discovery
is that freshwater ecosystems have been so badly affected.
- "You hear a lot about forest and
marine environments being under attack - but the fact is that freshwater
ecosystems have been hardest hit, although they've received the least attention,"
- Species in decline
- But does the report's grim findings mean
that many species have become extinct all over the globe? According to
the experts that is difficult to prove because a species has to disappear
for 50 years before it can be declared extinct - but it is certain is that
many species are in decline.
- Mr Loh cites the example of the island
of Mauritius where nearly 40% of the bird and animal species are threatened
as a result of habitat loss and the introduction of invasive species, not
native to the island.
- The exact causes of species decline differs
from region to region. In Thailand the ancient coastline mangrove forests
have been badly affected by pollution, tourist development and shrimp farming.
Once the balance of nature is disturbed, the results can be disastrous.
The dying mangrove forests are also home to some of the region's marine
wildlife which in turn provides food for the local bird population.
- Another area where species are in decline
is in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Marine fish consumption has more
than doubled since 1960 and this over-exploitation of fish stocks combined
with pollution has badly affected marine life.
- Developed Nations To Blame
- The WWF mainly blames the decline of
the natural world on the pressure exerted by the developed world. It says
human consumption has doubled over the last 25 years and continues to accelerate.
- Although the report is bleak, the WWF
says some of the decline can be reversed if people in the developed world
commit themselves to action on a personal level.
- The agency recommends that everyone takes
a look at their own consumption habits and adjust them, for example: by
using less water and recycling packaging.
- But more importantly the WWF hopes the
report will have a major impact on politicians around the world and influence
conservation policy, encouraging more sustainable development and consumption
- Professor Ghillean Prance, Director of
the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, in London, says the report is "something
definite" that can be used in conservation planning.
- "I hope that the Living Planet Index
will really frighten the world into action," he said.