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posted by janrinok on Saturday October 29 2016, @08:26AM   Printer-friendly
from the sad dept.

The Living Planet assessment has found that global vertebrate wildlife populations have declined by 58% since 1970, and suggests that vertebrates will have declined by two-thirds in 2020:

The Living Planet Report is published every two years and aims to provide an assessment of the state of the world's wildlife. This analysis looked at data collected on 3,700 different species of birds, fish, mammals, amphibians and reptiles - about 6% of the total number of vertebrate species in the world. The researchers then analysed how the population sizes had changed over time since 1970. The last report, published in 2014, estimated that the world's wildlife populations had halved over the last 40 years.

[...] However, Living Planet reports have drawn some criticisms. Stuart Pimm, professor of conservation ecology at Duke University in the United States, said that while wildlife was in decline, there were too many gaps in the data to boil population loss down to a single figure. "There are some numbers [in the report] that are sensible, but there are some numbers that are very, very sketchy," he told BBC News. "For example, if you look at where the data comes from, not surprisingly, it is massively skewed towards western Europe. When you go elsewhere, not only do the data become far fewer, but in practice they become much, much sketchier... there is almost nothing from South America, from tropical Africa, there is not much from the tropics, period. Any time you are trying to mix stuff like that, it is is very very hard to know what the numbers mean. They're trying to pull this stuff in a blender and spew out a single number.... It's flawed."

But Dr Freeman said the team had taken the best data possible from around the world. "It's completely true that in some regions and in some groups, like tropical amphibians for example, we do have a lack of data. But that's because there is a lack of data. We're confident that the method we are using is the best method to present an overall estimate of population decline. It's entirely possible that species that aren't being monitored as effectively may be doing much worse - but I'd be very surprised if they were doing much better than we observed."

The Living Planet Report 2016 can be downloaded here.

Also at CNN.


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  • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Saturday October 29 2016, @12:29PM

    by JoeMerchant (3937) on Saturday October 29 2016, @12:29PM (#420095)

    Big species have been on the decline for the last 20,000 years due to human activity. The human migration to North America triggered a megafauna extinction event throughout the Americas that basically looks like a switch got flipped when viewed on normal evolutionary time scales.

    The more humans there are, and the more power we exercise over the biosphere, the more large species we decimate. Lately we've been getting really good at wiping out fish stocks, those seemingly endless supplies of protein in the ocean - yeah, we're ending them left and right. When I was a kid, nobody liked codfish, it was that cat-food that restaurants served when you didn't want to pay for proper fish like grouper or snapper; but, since North Atlantic cod was harvested so efficiently, it's all but gone now. With management it may rebound, but for every species we "manage" - there are a couple of dozen we don't and they get ground down into extinction.

    Give us a couple of hundred more years of cheap energy and we'll have reduced the biome to the point that the only animals larger than ourselves are the ones we grow for meat and the ones we specifically (and successfully) preserve in zoos. Another fun fact, not every animal captured from the wild is robust enough to survive the abuse of captivity, no matter how hard the best experts in the world try, they can't sustain a captive breeding population of something as simple (invertebrate) common and abundant as a squid.

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  • (Score: 2) by Joe Desertrat on Saturday October 29 2016, @09:31PM

    by Joe Desertrat (2454) Subscriber Badge on Saturday October 29 2016, @09:31PM (#420264)

    The pattern of megafauna extinction is pretty clear. Generally, as soon as humans arrived the megafauna started to decline precipitously in numbers. Only in Africa and to a much lesser extent the Eurasian landmass, where humans evolved along with the megafauna, did the populations of megafauna continue to thrive. Of course, the increasing "westernization" of Africa in recent times is mimicking the arrival of new humans on the scene with the corresponding decline in megafauna.
    You cannot of course, count only megafauna. They get the press because they are most visible, but the departure of each species alters the ecosystem's ability to sustain other species, from megafauna to plants to microbes.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by JoeMerchant on Sunday October 30 2016, @01:02AM

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Sunday October 30 2016, @01:02AM (#420392)

      We seem to be working our way down from Woolly Mammoths and Bluefin Tuna to ever smaller species that we're grinding into extinction. There are, of course, exceptions, but trees have been hit hard (North American Chestnut comes to mind, I'm sure a proper botanist could list a dozen large tree species that have declined by 90% or more post-human management of the lands), and any predator large enough to scare a gun toting homo-sapiens has also been hit very hard - not to mention species like tortoise that make easy meals for people without guns.

      We don't even know enough about the microbiome to begin to assess our macro level impact on it. Everything from chemical management of farmlands through urbanization and exploitation of freshwater streams has to have had major impacts there, but virtually nobody is studying it.

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