68% of biodiversity lost in 5 decades: WWF report | India News

Of every 10 biodiversity species population, the planet lost seven in the past five decades. The brunt of it was borne by freshwater species, whose population went down by a staggering 84%. And even with increased conservation efforts, an improvement seems unlikely before 2050, said the latest bi-annual ‘Living Planet Report’ released by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
“The situation in India is not much different from the global situation, something we need to be cognizant of,” said Sejal Worah, programme director of the organisation’s India unit at a pre-release briefing on Wednesday. “In India, over 12% wild mammals and 3% bird species face the threat of extinction, while 19% amphibians are threatened or critically endangered.”
The Living Planet Index maps 21,000 populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians. The patterns show wide regional variance. The Asia Pacific saw a 45% drop in biodiversity, the second biggest after Latin America and the Carribean, which lost 94%. Singled out as a particular cause of concern are freshwater species. “Almost one in three freshwater are threatened with extinction,” the report said. In the Indian context, Worah said, the situation is dire. “By 2030, water demand will be twice the availability, with 14 of 20 river basins already stressed. We are in a very critical situation,” she added. One-third of India’s wetlands have already been lost in the past four decades.
What it shows up are the cascading effects of human activity in ways that are not always understood until much later. A cyclone in one continent can lead to a locust swarm in another, for instance. In 2018, climate change led to two cyclones with unusually heavy rainfall in the southern Arabian peninsula. It created a breeding ground for locusts, which then invaded parts of South Asia (including India) and East Africa in 2019. The same year, “an exceptionally hot and long heatwave led to extreme droughts in India and Pakistan, forcing tens of thousands to abandon their homes and causing an as-yet-unknown death toll,” the report said.
The available data bear that out. The biggest threat to biodiversity in the Asia Pacific, consistent with global trends, was change in land use (accounting for 45% of the threat), followed by species overexploitation (26.9%) and invasive species and disease (14%), the report added.
This broken relationship with nature came to a head in 2020. “A series of catastrophic events – wildfires, locust plagues and the Covid-19 pandemic – have shaken the world’s environmental conscience,” the report said. In a study earlier this year, the WWF had outlined the relationship between pandemics, zoonotic diseases and wildlife conservation. “For a megadiverse country like India, which has been seeing a decline in forests, natural wetlands, and marine biodiversity due to urbanisation, land degradation, pollution and landuse change, bolder conservation efforts are key to reversing the trend,” added Ravi Singh, CEO of WWF-India.
The year 2020 is also the first time in a decade that all five global risks to livelihood mapped by the World Economic Forum have been related to the environment and not the economy — extreme weather, climate action failure, natural disasters, biodiversity loss and human-made environmental disasters. And that’s because the ecological footprint of human populations has exceeded the planet’s regenerative capacity — biodiversity is being destroyed faster than it can recover.
“Humanity’s ecological footprint, estimated from UN statistics, has increased by about 173% over the past 60 years and now exceeds the planet’s biocapacity by 56%. This means that the human enterprise currently demands 1.56 times more resources than the amount that the earth can regenerate,” the report said. India’s footprint is among the lowest — less than 1.6 global hectares per person, smaller than that of many large countries. However, the report added, “its high population levels make it likely for the country to face a widening ecological deficit even if current per-capita levels of resource consumption remain the same.”



[Source :Times of India]

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