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Dalhousie professor outlines harmful human impacts on global oceans in WWF Living Planet Report that shows 68% average decline in wildlife populations since 1970

Posted by Communications and Marketing on September 9, 2020 in Faculty of Science, News

HALIFAX, N.S. – Populations of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish have declined by 68 per cent on average in less than half a century due in large part to the same environmentally destructive practices contributing to the emergence of diseases such as COVID-19, according to WWF’s Living Planet Report 2020.

Released today, the report shows that factors believed to increase the planet’s vulnerability to pandemics -- such as land-use change and the wildlife trade -- were also some of the drivers behind the 68 per cent average decline in populations of vertebrate species that were monitored between 1970 and 2016.

“The Living Planet Report 2020 underlines how humanity’s increasing destruction of nature is having catastrophic impacts not only on wildlife populations, but also on human health and all aspects of our lives,” said Marco Lambertini, Director General, WWF International.

“We can’t ignore the evidence -- these serious declines in wildlife species populations are an indicator that nature is unravelling and that our planet is flashing red warning signs of systems failure.”

The Living Planet Report 2020 is a comprehensive overview of the state of the natural world through the Living Planet Index, which tracks trends in global wildlife abundance. With contributions from more than 125 experts from around the world, the report identifies the main causes of the dramatic decline in species populations as habitat loss and degradation in terrestrial systems.

Derek Tittensor, an associate professor of Biology at Dalhousie University, contributed a section in the report on the threats to the marine environment. Overfishing, pollution, deep-sea mining and coastal development are some of the many pressures that have affected the entire ocean, from shallow waters to the deep sea. Furthermore, marine ecosystems now have to also contend with climate change.

“There is nowhere in the ocean that is entirely unaffected by humans: only 13 per cent is considered to be wilderness, waste and marine litter are found even in deep ocean trenches, and human pressures are continuing to increase,” says Dr. Tittensor.

“The negative effects of these combined impacts threaten the goods and services – such as food provision, climate regulation, carbon storage and coastal protection – that marine ecosystems provide to human society, and upon which we all depend.”

Dr. Tittensor is available to discuss the implications of these findings and the extent to which global oceans are being affected by human impacts.

The Living Planet Report 2020 is available here. 

Media contact:
Alison Auld
Senior Research Reporter
Dalhousie University
Cell: 902-220-0491


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