According to the Living Planet Report 2018 released by WWF, Earth is witnessing Great Acceleration, a unique event in Earth’s history characterized by exploding human population and economic growth.
What is the Living Planet Report?
- The Living Planet Report is WWF’s flagship publication released every two years.
- It is a comprehensive study of trends in global biodiversity and the health of the planet.
- The Living Planet Report 2018 is the 12th edition of the report.
What are the Key findings of the Living Planet Report 2018?
- The Great Acceleration:
- Since 1950s, we are witnessing Great Acceleration, a unique event in Earth’s history characterized by exploding human population and economic growth. This is leading to increased demand for energy, land and water and interference with Biodiversity.
- Due to this, scientists believe that, we are entering Anthropocene, a new geological epoch.
- Threats to biodiversity:
- The key drivers of biodiversity decline remain overexploitation and agriculture, which are in-turn driven by spiralling human consumption.
- Over the past 50 years our Ecological Footprint – one measure of our consumption of natural resources – has increased by about 190%.
- Threats and Pressures on Land:
- According to the latest Land Degradation and Restoration Assessment (LDRA) released by IPBES in March 2018, only a quarter of land on Earth is substantively free of the impacts of human activities.
- Wetlands are the most impacted category, having lost 87% of their extent in modern era.
- Soil biodiversity:
- The recently published Global Soil Biodiversity Atlas mapped for the first-time potential threats to soil biodiversity across the globe.
- The areas with the lowest level of risk are mainly concentrated in the northern part of the northern hemisphere. India, China, several countries in Africa and Europe, and most of North America are faces the highest level of risk to soil biodiversity.
- The majority of flowering plants are pollinated by insects and other animals. Our food production depends heavily upon these pollinators.
- But, changing land use due to agricultural intensification and urban expansion is leading to huge pollinator loss.
- The Living Planet Index (LPI):
- This year’s LPI shows an overall decline of 60% in the population sizes of vertebrates between 1970 and 2014. South and Central America suffered the most dramatic decline (an 89% loss compared to 1970).
- In the 20th century, freshwater fish have had the highest extinction rate worldwide among vertebrates.
- Almost 20% of the Amazon rainforest has disappeared in just 50 years.
- In the last 50 years, global average temperature has risen at 170 times the background rate.
What are the three new indicators included in the report?
- As measuring biodiversity is complex, so this report also explores three other indicators to complement the Living Planet Index (LPI). These indicators are:
- Species Habitat Index: tracks changes in species distribution;
- IUCN Red List Index: tracks extinction risk; and
- Biodiversity Intactness Index: tracks changes in community composition.
- All these show the same picture—showing severe declines or changes.
The report suggests three necessary steps to prevent Biodiversity loss:
- Clearly specify the goal for biodiversity recovery,
- Develop a set of measurable and relevant indicators of progress, and
- Agree a suite of actions that can collectively achieve the goal in the required timeframe.