Since 1970, 60 percent of world’s wildlife has been lost

Matt Lawson / October 30, 2018

Guichon creek – one of the many freshwater bodies in BC that salmon swim up.
(Jenny Cameron / BCIT)

The World Wildlife Fund said that 60% of the world’s wildlife has been lost since 1970. Overexploitation and agricultural activities remain the dominant causes of current species loss – of all the species that have gone extinct since AD1500, 75% were harmed by overexploitation or agriculture.

The harm is caused by an ever-expanding rate of human consumption. Over the past 50 years, our ecological footprint has increased by 190%. For instance, about six-billion tonnes of fish and invertebrtes have been extracted from the world’s oceans since 1950. Back in 1950, 28-million tonnes were caught, then in 2014, it spiked to more than 110-million tonnes. The peak amount was about 130-million tonnes in 1996 and it’s been decreasing by an average of 1.2-million tonnes per year since then.

The two most impacted regions are the “Neotropical realm”, composed of Central and South America and the Caribbean, which has seen their wildlife population decline by 89% and also freshwater ecosystems, which has seen a drop of 83% to their wildlife populations. Freshwater systems are abundant in Canada.

“What this report essentially reinforces is that habitat loss is a major factor towards the status of theses animals – wildlife and plants and one of the big things that we feel can be done is each and every one of us can play a role in protecting our natural spaces, protecting habitats for our animals and wildlife.” – Andrew Holland, National Media Relations Director, Nature Conservancy of Canada.

How Canadians can help with nature conservation.
(Ashley Moliere / BCIT News)

The Arctic Fox, the Monarch Butterfly, and the North Atlantic Right Whale are just a few of the animals that habitat Canada that are facing endangerment threats.

Freshwater ecosystems are the most threatened. They provide homes for more than 100,000 known species, despite covering less than 1% of the Earth’s surface. They also are the source of life for all humans and command high economic value. Invasive species, overfishing, pollution, forestry practices, disease, and climate change are among the factors threatening these species – combinations of these issues can be catastrophically damaging.

In the 20th century, freshwater fishes have had the highest extinction rate worldwide among vertebrates.

Holland says he’s not surprised by the figures presented in WWF’s report based on the negative trends he’s seen in animal populations. He also says it’s ironic that we as humans continually destroy our local ecosystems, when they do so much for us. Depending where you live, certain ecosystems can actually be protective to humans.

“Wetlands not only provide important habitats for our species, but they’re also important for our communities as they act as like a giant paper towel – they act as a great-big sponge – they help absorb water and slow the flow of water so we don’t have damage to our roads and infrastructure and personal property. These are, frankly, our defenses against natural climate change.” – Andrew Holland, National Media Relations Director, Nature Conservancy of Canada.

Making contributions to private conservation efforts is something everyone can do and something that can really assist with these ongoing issues. Even the smallest conservations efforts can make the biggest differences – whether that be building bird houses, building pollinators or simply just not raking your leaves.

Holland says that people’s growing disconnect to nature is one of the biggest fuels to this burning problem. Going out camping, hiking, out for a walk or a bike ride is amazing, not only for our physical and mental wellbeing, but it also creates an appreciation for nature. He says that if we don’t appreciate it, our children and grandchildren won’t either and the problem will continue to worsen.