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

Rob Greenfield pictured above is driven by the concept of "living a life where [he] can wake up and feel good about [his] life." Rob Greenfield / Facebook

For one year Rob Greenfield grew and foraged all of his own food. No grocery stores, no restaurants, no going to a bar for a drink, not even medicines from the pharmacy.

Read More Show Less
Apple has removed all 181 vaping-related apps from its App Store. VioletaStoimenova / E+ / Getty Images

Apple has removed all 181 vaping-related apps from its App Store, the company announced on Friday. The removal of the apps comes after thousands of people across the country have developed lung illnesses from vaping and 42 people have died.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
(L) Selma Three Stone Engagement Ring. (R) The Greener Diamond Farm Project. MiaDonna

By Bailey Hopp

If you had to choose a diamond for your engagement ring from below or above the ground, which would you pick … and why would you pick it? This is the main question consumers are facing when picking out their diamond engagement ring today. With a dramatic increase in demand for conflict-free lab-grown diamonds, the diamond industry is shifting right before our eyes.

Read More Show Less
A Keystone Pipeline oil spill has affected nearly 10 times the amount of land than previously thought. CBC News / YouTube screenshot

A spill at the Keystone Pipeline that began last month has affected nearly 10 times the amount of land than previously thought, state officials said Monday.

Read More Show Less
We shouldn't have to be toxicologists to be able to grab something at the grocery store that doesn't contain dangerous ingredients. Daniel Orth / Flickr

By Melissa Kravitz Hoeffner

A major but largely glossed over report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), an environmental and public health nonprofit based in Washington, DC, shows that thousands of untested chemicals (an estimated 2,000, to be exact) are found in conventional packaged foods purchasable in U.S. supermarkets. And yes, all of them are legal.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

The deforestation rate in Brazil's Amazon rainforest is at its highest in more than a decade, CNN reported Tuesday.

Read More Show Less
Traffic on Highway 101 in Los Angeles, California on March 25, 2015. Eric Demarcq / Flickr

California will stop buying vehicles from the more than a dozen automakers including General Motors (GM), Fiat Chrysler and Toyota who sided with the Trump administration on the question of whether the state has the authority to set its own emissions standards, CalMatters first reported Friday.

Read More Show Less

Record flood water levels in Venice hit again on Sunday making this the worst week of flooding in the city in over 50 years.

Read More Show Less