50% of the world’s wildlife has disappeared in just 2 generations, 40 years

Our land is sick, and its healing seems more and more uncertain. The pressure of our species on ecosystems is such that we need the equivalent of one and a half Earth’s worth each year to meet our natural resource needs, while the decline in biodiversity is unprecedented. These are the alarming conclusions of the Fund for Nature (WWF), in the tenth edition of its Living Planet report, the most comprehensive health check on our blue planet.

This biannual report, produced with the scholarly Zoological Society of London and the NGOs Global Footprint Network and Water Footprint Network, and presented to UNESCO on Tuesday, 30 September, is based on three indicators. The first, the living planet index (LPI), measures the evolution of biodiversity from the monitoring of 10 380 populations (groups of animals on a territory) belonging to 3 038 vertebrate species of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish.


As a result, the numbers of these wild species declined by 52% between 1970 and 2010. In other words, the size of these populations has halved in less than two generations, which represents a much larger decline than previously estimated (- 28%). In detail, freshwater species are the hardest hit with a fall of 76% between 1970 and 2010, against a decline of 39% for marine species and terrestrial species.

We have enriched our database of a thousand populations, but most importantly, we have changed the methodology, explains Christophe Roturier, scientific director of WWF France. Previously, we had overrepresented mammalian and bird species in our index relative to reptiles, amphibians and fish. We therefore weighted each species in relation to its real importance in ecosystems. “

If this decline affects the entire globe, the heaviest losses are observed in the tropics (-56% versus -36% in temperate zones). Latin America is the most affected region (-83%), followed by Asia-Pacific. On the contrary, in terrestrial protected areas, the GPI decreased by “only” 18%.

The decline in biodiversity is more in the tropics (-56%) than in the temperate zones (-36%). WWF

The main threats to wild species are the disappearance and degradation of their habitats (due to deforestation, urbanization or even agriculture), hunting and fishing (intentional, for food or sports, or accidental as bycatch), pollution and climate change, the effects of which should be stronger and stronger.

50% of the world’s wildlife has disappeared in just 2 generations:


Second index of the report, the ecological footprint measures the pressure exerted by man on nature. It calculates precisely the land and sea surfaces necessary to produce each year the goods and services we consume (food, fuel, space for construction, etc.) and absorb the waste we generate.

According to WWF, humanity’s ecological footprint reached 18.1 billion global hectares (hag, hectares of average productivity) in 2010, or 2.6 hag per person. The problem is that this global footprint, which has doubled since the 1960s, exceeds the planet’s biocapacity by 50%, that is to say, its ability to regenerate natural resources and absorb CO2, which it , amounted to 12 billion hag (1.7 hag per person). In the end, in 2010, humanity used the equivalent of a planet and a half to live, and thus began its “natural capital”. Half of this overconsumption is attributable to CO2 emissions (53%), largely due to fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas).

This “overtaking”, where this day from which humanity lives on credit – which intervenes earlier and earlier in the year – is possible because we cut trees at a faster rate than their growth, we collect more fish in the oceans than it is born each year, and we release more carbon into the atmosphere than forests and oceans can absorb. As a result, resource stocks are becoming depleted and waste accumulates faster than it can be absorbed or recycled, as evidenced by the rise in CO2 concentration in the atmosphere.

“While technological innovation, such as improving the efficiency of resource and energy consumption, can reduce overcoming, it also exposes us to new dilemmas. agricultural capacity through the use of fertilizer and mechanization was done by consuming more fossil fuels, thus increasing the carbon footprint, “warns the report.


Which countries exert the greatest pressure on ecosystems? They emit the most CO2: China, the United States, India, Brazil and Russia. Together, they account for nearly half of the world’s ecological footprint.

Brought down per capita, this index gives a very different ranking. This time, it is the highest-income countries that are most at fault. Thus, the record ecological footprint per capita is held by Kuwait (10.5 hag per capita, or 6 times what the Earth can produce), followed by Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Denmark and Belgium, which around 8 hag per capita. France ranks 23rd at 4.5 hag, well above the world average (2.6) or the Earth’s biocapacity (1.7). Afghanistan, Haiti, Eritrea, Palestine and East Timor have the smallest footprint, at around 0.4 ha per capita.

50% of the world’s wildlife has disappeared in just 2 generations


Finally, the third index of the Living Planet report, the water footprint makes it possible to grasp the magnitude of the volumes of fresh water (taken from lakes, rivers, reservoirs and aquifers) and rainwater necessary for our way of life. . Agricultural production consumes 92% of the overall water footprint, ahead of industrial production (4.4%) and domestic uses (3.6%).

If India and China are in the lead (with the United States) of the countries with the strongest water footprint, it is because they export massively intensive goods in water, whether agricultural or industrial, to developed countries. This increases pressure on fragile areas that often lack conservation policies for this scarce resource. Today, more than a third of the world’s population, or about 2.7 billion people, live in river basins experiencing severe water scarcity for at least one month a year.

This trend is expected to worsen as the population has almost tripled since 1950, reaching 7 billion in 2011, and is expected to grow to 9.6 billion in 2050 and 11 billion in 2100. ” ‘humanity can succeed in decorrelating its development from its ecological footprint,’ says Philippe Germa, Director General of WWF France. This requires preserving natural capital, including halting over-harvesting of fish stocks, producing better, with fewer inputs and waste and more renewable energy, and reorienting financial flows, taking into account environmental and environmental costs. social. “

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