Astonishing Species Decline


Chris and I went to hear a Professor from Arizona State University talk about the amazing decline of birds and what we can do about it. Before I bog on what he said, I wanted to give some information, about the general problem of species decline. It is not a pretty story but the Professor did not concentrate on doom and gloom. He actually had some suggestions.

We all know birds (and other animals) have been seriously impacted by human activities inside and outside cities. The Living Planet Report of the World Wildlife Fund of 2018 delivered shocking news. It reported “On average, we’ve seen an astonishing 60% decline in the size of populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians in just over 40 years.” You have to be careful in interpreting such figures. They are more complicated than at first they appear. But it is not difficult to understand we are losing a lot of wildlife. In addition the report said, “The top threats to species identified in the report link directly to human activities, including habitat loss and degradation and the excessive human use of wildlife such as overfishing and overhunting.”

As Damian Carrington reported in the Guardian, “Between 1970 and 2014, the latest data available, populations fell by an average of 60%. Four years ago, the decline was 52%. The “shocking truth”, …, is that the wildlife crash is continuing unabated.”

This is an incredible report and not many people are talking about it. They are talking about Trump and the Mueller report, but that is not nearly as important as this. As Carrington said,


Humanity has wiped out 60% of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles since 1970, leading the world’s foremost experts to warn that the annihilation of wildlife is now an emergency that threatens civilisation.

The new estimate of the massacre of wildlife is made in a major report produced by the WWF and involving 59 scientists from across the globe. It finds that the vast and growing consumption of food and resources by the global population is destroying the web of life, billions of years in the making, upon which human society ultimately depends for clean air, water and everything else.

We are sleepwalking towards the edge of a cliff” said Mike Barrett, executive director of science and conservation at WWF. “If there was a 60% decline in the human population, that would be equivalent to emptying North America, South America, Africa, Europe, China and Oceania. That is the scale of what we have done.”

This is far more than just being about losing the wonders of nature, desperately sad though that is,” he said. “This is actually now jeopardising the future of people. Nature is not a ‘nice to have’ – it is our life-support system.”

According to Prof Johan Rockström, a global sustainability expert at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, “We are rapidly running out of time.…The Living Planet Index has been criticised as being too broad a measure of wildlife losses and smoothing over crucial details. But all indicators, from extinction rates to intactness of ecosystems, show colossal losses. “They all tell you the same story,” said Barrett….”

Tanya Steele, chief executive at WWF, said: “We are the first generation to know we are destroying our planet and the last one that can do anything about it.'”

However, as Professor Pearson repeated over and over, he did not want to concentrate on the gloom. He wanted to concentrate on how we should adapt to these horrid facts. If we can’t adapt we will suffer the same consequences as other species that fail to adapt when challenged. We will disappear–forever.

Next I will blog about how we should react to this decline. Besides crying that is.

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