Quantcast

World's Forest Animal Population Drops 53% Since 1970: WWF Report

Animals
A jungle path through the El Yunque national forest in Puerto Rico. Data from the WWF report includes various examples of pressures driving forest population declines, one being disease affecting amphibians in Puerto Rico. dennisvdw / Getty Images Plus

By Wesley Rahn

The global population of forest-dwelling vertebrates has plummeted in the period between 1970 and 2014, according to a study published Tuesday by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in Berlin.


The study, titled Below The Canopy tracked the development of 268 vertebrate species and 455 populations in forests around the world. It found that the numbers of birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles have dropped by an average of 53 percent since 1970.

In light of these figures, the WWF called on the international community to declare a global forest emergency and to begin taking steps to reverse the trend by adopting sustainable forestry policies and beginning the process of restoring lost forest habitats.

Deforestation and degradation of forests are thought to be responsible for more than 60 percent of the decline in populations, according to the study.

​Effect on Climate Change

WWF researchers emphasized that a rich variety of animal species is vital to forest ecosystems. According to the study, a decline in forest vertebrates has "serious consequences for forest integrity and climate change, because of the role that particular vertebrate species play in forest regeneration and carbon storage. Other essential functions for forest ecosystems performed by animals include pollination and seed dispersal.

"Forests are our greatest natural ally in the fight against global warming," said Susanne Winter, program director at WWF Germany. "If we want to reverse the worldwide decline in biodiversity and prevent the climate crisis, we need to protect the forests and the species living there."

Winter pointed out that animals and forests live in symbiosis, and if certain species dwindle, flora will begin to suffer.

"Forests depend on an intact animal world to perform functions essential to life," she said. "Without animals, it is harder for forests to absorb carbon, as tree species important for protecting the climate could be lost without animals."

​Recovery is Possible

Loss of habitat is not the only threat facing the world's forest animals. According to WWF researchers, overexploitation, invasive species, climate change and disease are also factors harming population levels. And while forest degradation was identified as the primary driver of population loss, restoring forests alone would not solve the problem.

To increase animal populations, the WWF said local communities must be engaged to address "overexploitation of wildlife, and tackling invasive species to address the multiple pressures on forest species."

The study showed that conservation measures restored the population of gorillas in Central and East Africa and that of capuchin monkeys in Costa Rica.

"Success stories show that with the right conservation strategies, forest vertebrate populations can recover," the report said.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Deutsche Welle.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

beyond foto / Getty Images

By Kimberly Holland

Children who eat a lot of gluten in their earliest years may have an increased risk of developing celiac disease and gluten intolerance, according to a new study published in JAMATrusted Source.

Read More Show Less
Joe Raedle / Getty Images

By Jake Johnson

Calling the global climate crisis both the greatest threat facing the U.S. and the greatest opportunity for transformative change, Sen. Bernie Sanders unveiled today a comprehensive Green New Deal proposal that would transition the U.S. economy to 100 percent renewable energy and create 20 million well-paying union jobs over a decade.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
orientalizing / Flickr

The Parties to CITES agreed to list giraffes on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) today at the World Wildlife Conference or CoP18 in Geneva. Such protections will ensure that all giraffe parts trade were legally acquired and not sourced from the poached giraffes trade and will require countries to make non-detriment findings before allowing giraffe exports. The listing will also enable the collection of international trade data for giraffes that might justify greater protections at both CITES and other venues in the future.

Read More Show Less

The WHO stressed that more research is needed on the potential health risks of microplastic ingestion. luchschen / iStock / Getty Images Plus

The UN's health agency on Thursday said that microplastics contained in drinking water posed a "low" risk at their current levels.

However, the World Health Organization (WHO) — in its first report on the potential health risks of microplastic ingestion — also stressed more research was needed to reassure consumers.

Read More Show Less

Brazil's right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro is giving President Trump a run for his money in the alternative facts department.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee delivered his 2019 State of the State address on Jan. 15. Governor Jay and First Lady Trudi Inslee / Flickr

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who made solving the climate crisis the center of his presidential campaign, is dropping out of the 2020 Democratic primary race.

Read More Show Less
Earthjustice

By Robert Valencia

In April 2018, Afro-Colombian activist Francia Márquez won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize, thanks to her work to retake her community's ancestral territories from illegal gold mining. However, her international recognition comes at a very risky price.

Read More Show Less

By Stuart Braun

A year after activist Greta Thunberg first stood in the rain outside the Swedish parliament with her now iconic "Skolstrejk för klimatet" — school strike for the climate — placard, the movement she spawned has set the tone for environmental protest action around the world.

Read More Show Less