Living Planet Report: bending the curve of biodiversity loss
WWF’s 2020 Living Planet Report publishes updated figures for the Living Planet Index (LPI): the size of around 21,000 mammal, bird, fish, amphibian and reptile populations fell by an average of 68% between 1970 and 2016. The change in LPI varies regionally, with the most striking result being a 94% decline in tropical subregions of the Americas.
This devastating decline of vertebrate numbers is indicative of precipitous drops in overall ecosystem health. This is backed up by further data on invertebrate populations, habitat area, extinction risk and biodiversity intactness. The report also emphasises that whilst climate change is not the leading cause of biodiversity loss now, evidence is growing for species suffering from climate change (e.g. over 30,000 flying foxes are thought to have died during heatwaves between 1994 and 2007), and it is likely to overtake other drivers of loss in coming years.
The report highlights findings from the Bending the Curve Initiative, which models different human behaviour scenarios aimed at stemming biodiversity loss. The models show that conservation (increased extent and management of protected areas, habitat restoration and landscape-scale conservation planning) is insufficient to bend the curve of biodiversity loss if acting alone; we also need a shift towards sustainable production and sustainable consumption, especially to reduce habitat conversion – a three-pronged approach is necessary.
The Living Planet Report draws attention to the dependency of current and future human survival and prosperity on biodiversity. Marco Lamerbtini, Director General of WWF International, states that there are some ‘8 billion reasons to safeguard nature’ – each and every person on the planet. He also reinstates widespread calls for ‘a deep cultural and systemic shift… to a society and economic system that values nature’.
Nature-based solutions play a central role in bending the curve on biodiversity loss, and ensuring that we protect and restore nature in such a way to provide the flow of ecosystem services on which people rely. The Living Planet Report supports the notion that for nature to supply the goods and services that society takes for granted, maintaining the diversity of genes, species and ecosystems is key. However, the protection, restoration and management of nature which can occur through nature-based solutions must take place in concert with sustainable, well-traced supply chains becoming the norm, and decreased total and lower-impact consumption by individuals and companies, especially in wealthier nations.