Tropical natural resources declining at alarming rate
Thursday 14 October 2010
The Living Planet Report, the leading survey of the planet’s health, shows populations of tropical species are plummeting and humanity’s demands on natural resources are sky-rocketing to 50 per cent more than the earth can sustain.
Produced in collaboration with WWF and the Global Footprint Network, the report uses ZSL’s Living Planet Index to measure the health of almost 8,000 populations of more than 2,500 species. The global Index shows a decrease by 30 per cent since 1970, with the tropics hardest hit showing a 60 per cent decline in less than 40 years.
“Species are the foundation of ecosystems,” said Prof Jonathan Baillie, ZSL’s Conservation Programme Director. “Healthy ecosystems form the basis of all we have – lose them and we destroy our life support system.”
While the report shows some promising recovery by species’ populations in temperate areas, thanks in part to greater conservation efforts and improvements in pollution and waste control, tracked populations of freshwater tropical species have fallen by nearly 70 per cent – greater than any species’ decline measured on land or in our oceans.
The Ecological Footprint, another key indicator in the report, indicates that our demand on natural resources has doubled since 1966, and we are now using the equivalent of 1.5 planets to support our activities. An alarming 11-fold increase in our carbon footprint over the last five decades means carbon now accounts for more than half of the global Ecological Footprint.
"The report shows that continuing of the current consumption trends would lead us to the point of no return,” said Jim Leape, Director General of WWF International. “4.5 Earths would be required to support a global population living like an average resident of the UAE or the US."
The footprint in high-income countries is on average five times that of low-income countries, which suggests that unsustainable consumption in wealthier nations rests largely on depleting the natural resources of poorer, often still resource rich tropical countries. The report shows a near 60 per cent decline in the biodiversity of countries with a lower income in less than 40 years.
The Living Planet Report outlines solutions needed to ensure the Earth can sustain a global population projected to pass nine billion in 2050, and points to choices in diet and energy consumption as critical to reducing footprint, as well as improved efforts to value and invest in our natural capital.
The Living Planet Report, and related information, is available online at www.panda.org/lpr .