Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

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

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

Ningaloo Reef near Exmouth on April 2, 2012 in Western Australia. James D. Morgan / Getty Images News

By Dana M Bergstrom, Euan Ritchie, Lesley Hughes and Michael Depledge

In 1992, 1,700 scientists warned that human beings and the natural world were "on a collision course." Seventeen years later, scientists described planetary boundaries within which humans and other life could have a "safe space to operate." These are environmental thresholds, such as the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and changes in land use.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A 3-hour special film by EarthxTV calls for protection of the Amazon and its indigenous populations. EarthxTV.org

To save the planet, we must save the Amazon rainforest. To save the rainforest, we must save its indigenous peoples. And to do that, we must demarcate their land.

Read More Show Less

Trending

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres delivers a video speech at the high-level meeting of the 46th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council UNHRC in Geneva, Switzerland on Feb. 22, 2021. Xinhua / Zhang Cheng via Getty Images

By Anke Rasper

"Today's interim report from the UNFCCC is a red alert for our planet," said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

The report, released Friday, looks at the national climate efforts of 75 states that have already submitted their updated "nationally determined contributions," or NDCs. The countries included in the report are responsible for about 30% of the world's global greenhouse gas emissions.

Read More Show Less
New Delhi's smog is particularly thick, increasing the risk of vehicle accidents. SAJJAD HUSSAIN / AFP via Getty Images

India's New Delhi has been called the "world air pollution capital" for its high concentrations of particulate matter that make it harder for its residents to breathe and see. But one thing has puzzled scientists, according to The Guardian. Why does New Delhi see more blinding smogs than other polluted Asian cities, such as Beijing?

Read More Show Less
A bridge over the Delaware river connects New Hope, Pennsylvania with Lambertville, New Jersey. Richard T. Nowitz / Getty Images

In a historic move, the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) voted Thursday to ban hydraulic fracking in the region. The ban was supported by all four basin states — New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New York — putting a permanent end to hydraulic fracking for natural gas along the 13,539-square-mile basin, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Read More Show Less