Human need wiping out animals at alarming rate
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Human need wiping out animals at alarming rate

The global ecological footprint over the past 50 years has increased by over 190% and this has fuelled the loss in biodiversity, says the World Wide Fund for Nature’s (WWF) Living Planet report .

environment Updated: Oct 30, 2018 23:42 IST
Jayashree Nandi
Jayashree Nandi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
wildlife,wildlife population,WWF
The report, released on Tuesday, says the two main drivers for such unprecedented ecological loss is over-exploitation of resources and agriculture.(AP File Photo)

The global population of vertebrate species has declined by 60% in 44 years between 1970 and 2014 with the population of freshwater species declining by 83% during the same period, a 4% loss every year, the 2018 edition of the World Wide Fund for Nature’s (WWF) Living Planet report has found.

The report, released on Tuesday, says the two main drivers for such unprecedented ecological loss is over-exploitation of resources and agriculture.

India is one of the worst affected by biodiversity loss even though its per capita global ecological footprint is among the lowest in the world, WWF experts said, commenting on the report’s findings.

The global ecological footprint over the past 50 years has increased by over 190% and this has fuelled the loss in biodiversity. Ecological Footprint accounting calculates human demand on nature by quantifying how much biologically productive area is required by a country to meet demand for food, fibre, timber, roads and buildings, and sequestration of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning. It is a function of population and consumption rates.

According to the India fact sheet of the Living Planet report, India’s ecological footprint is less than 1.75 ha per person, one of the lowest in the world but the country still faces a “widening ecological deficit”. This is mainly because of its large population and overall consumption demands.

“In simple terms, ecological footprint is our demand on biologically productive land for our consumption needs. This includes natural and wild habitat, freshwater and marine areas. India’s per capita ecological footprint may be low, but overall its population is high and therefore consumption is high — but that hasn’t been evaluated in this report. India is an extremely resource-rich country with at least 80% of the (world’s) one-horned rhino population, and at least 60% of the global population of Asiatic elephants and tigers so it stands to lose a lot,” said Dipankar Ghose, director, species and landscape at WWF, India.

Pointing at the increasing impact of human beings on species loss, the report has said the planet is driving towards a new geological epoch: the Anthropocene. “It’s the first time in the Earth’s history that a single species — Homo sapiens — has had such a powerful impact on the planet. This rapid planetary change, referred to as the ‘Great Acceleration’, has brought many benefits to human society,” the report said.

The India fact sheet quotes a Tamil Nadu Agricultural University study, which found that India currently has only 1.2 million bee colonies as against 150 million bee colonies needed to meet pollination requirements for agriculture in the country. It has also highlighted the Agriculture Ministry’s submission to a parliamentary committee that productivity of major crops could decrease by 10 to 40% by 2100 unless agriculture adapts to climate change impacts.

Land degradation may have already impacted 29.32% of land area in India according to an Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) study. India has also lost significant amount of coral cover in Lakshadweep and is seeing an increase in marine capture. The population of the critically endangered Gharial across its range in India and Nepal declined by 58% between 1997 and 2206.

The global Living Planet report, a science-based assessment of the health of our planet, has been tracking the state of global biodiversity for 20 years now. It is based largely on scientific literature and data review by experts from across the world. The report has estimated that nature provides economic services and benefits worth 125 trillion USD.

It has also found that globally land degradation, including deforestation, is impacting 75% of our terrestrial ecosystem, a whopping 6 billion tones of fish and invertebrates have been taken from world’s oceans since 1950, and wetland area has declined by 87% among many other alarming findings. “Science is showing us the harsh reality our forests, oceans and rivers are enduring at our hands. Inch by inch and species by species, shrinking wildlife numbers are an indicator of the tremendous impact and pressure we are exerting on the planet, undermining the very living fabric that sustains us all: nature and biodiversity,” said Marco Lambertini, Director General, WWF International.

First Published: Oct 30, 2018 23:39 IST