Caribbean seeing highest wildlife diversity loss

A report from Cayman News.

Human activity is decimating the world’s wildlife population, which has fallen by an average of more than two-thirds in the last 50 years, a new report from the World Wildlife Fund has revealed. And it is in the Caribbean and Latin America where populations have fallen the most. The decline is happening at an unprecedented rate, threatening human life too, the report found.

“The findings are clear,” the authors wrote. “Our relationship with nature is broken.”

The Living Planet Report 2020 shows the results of wildlife monitoring of more than 4,300 different vertebrate species (mammals, fish, birds and amphibians) from around the world. It found that population sizes for those monitored species declined by an average of 68% between 1970 and 2016. In our region, however, the population loss is a staggering 94%.

“In the last 50 years our world has been transformed by an explosion in global trade, consumption and human population growth, as well as an enormous move towards urbanisation. These underlying trends are driving the destruction and degradation of nature, with the world now overusing natural resources at an unprecedented rate, ” the report states. “Only a handful of countries retain most of the last remaining wilderness areas.”

The scientists warned that while measuring biodiversity, the variety of all living things, is complex and there is no single measure that can capture all the changes, the vast majority of indicators show net declines over recent decades.

The most important direct driver of the loss has been land-use change, mainly the conversion of pristine native habitats into agricultural systems as well as over-fishing. Here in Cayman, we can see on a much smaller scale how over-development in the last 50 years has impacted our own pristine environment and posed a challenge to local species, such as turtles, Nassau grouper and blue iguanas.

In the coming decades scientists predict that climate change will become another import factor driving species loss. But while the situation is dire, the authors remain hopeful that the loss can be halted and reversed.

“With an unprecedented and immediate focus on both conservation and a transformation of our modern food system, this gives us a roadmap to restore biodiversity and feed a growing human population,” the report states. “To do this will require strong leadership and action by us all.”

Recently, a series of catastrophic events – wildfireslocust plagues and the COVID-19 pandemic – have shaken the world’s environmental conscience, showing that biodiversity conservation should be a non-negotiable. But the COVID-19 pandemic has seen international meetings pushed into 2021.

“The current state of our planet confirms that the world and its leaders should embrace a new global deal for people and nature that sets us on a path where both can thrive,” the report urges.

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