Compare the current state of biodiversity to clothing, says Liesje Mommer. “It is as if we are wearing clothes that are getting smaller and smaller and frayed to the thread. We will be wearing our shirts soon.” Mummer, who has become a “sham head of biodiversity” as professor of plant ecology and nature management at Wageningen University, reacts to the bad news about nature. second. This time about the number of wild animals. Mummer: “My kids, ages 13 and 11, read it on their phones this morning and said, Mama, what’s going on here?” I am very concerned, as a mother and also as a scientist.”
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) reported in its semi-annual report on the Living Planet that the numbers of wild mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish decreased by an average of 69 percent between 1970 and 2018. The largest decline occurred in tropical and freshwater regions, particularly in Latin America, by no less than 94 percent. Europe and Central Asia seem to be mercifully pulling off a “only” 18 percent drop, but that’s just a hoax. “The decline started there long before 1970,” says a spokesperson for the WWF.
The numbers come from the Living Planet Index, which tracks changes in 32,000 groups of 5,230 animal species. The researchers wrote that the report “confirms that the planet is in the midst of a biodiversity and climate crisis.” We have a “last chance” to get out of the “dual state of emergency”. “We need system-wide changes in how we produce and consume, the technology we use, and our economic and financial systems.”
The causes of biodiversity loss among animals are large-scale deforestation for agriculture, poaching, poaching, pollution, and the construction of buildings and roads.
Climate change also plays an important role, the report says: “If we cannot limit the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees, it is likely that climate change will become the main cause of biodiversity loss in the coming decades.”
Biodiversity decline and climate change are “two sides of the same coin”. Action is required. “What we are doing now and in the coming years is critical. We are approaching several turning points,” said the World Wildlife Fund. “The point at which major irreversible changes are initiated.”
It is true that there are regular successes. In the Netherlands, for example, the otter has returned. The wolf is also in return. It was announced this week that Marker Wadden, a recently established island group on Markermeer, has attracted 47 breeding birds and 170 species of plants, including long-tailed ducks, pygmy birds, and cornflowers.
Conservation programs in Africa have increased mountain gorilla numbers, and loggerhead turtle nests have increased by 500 percent in 15 years in Cyprus. This goes against the global trend, according to the WWF, with examples of lowland gorillas in decline in Africa, the pink river dolphin in Brazil and the Australian sea lion.
Healing is possible
Professor Mummer draws hope from nature restoration projects such as Marker Wadden and in the tropics, but also from more stringent regulations such as those of the European Commission’s Green Agreement. “There is a realization that this generation can still turn the tide, and more and more people in important positions are taking responsibility for it. People often think that biodiversity is mysterious, but it is the basis of our lives: flowers and bees, our food, clean air and fertile soil, protection from disease. It is our duty to remain optimistic. If we take giant steps now, I believe it is still possible. If we give nature space, recovery is possible. Fortunately, nature is forgiving.”
The World Wildlife Fund advocates eating meat or fish once or twice a week at most, buying local and sustainably produced produce and following a varied menu. Mummer agrees: “Less than 10 crops make up 70 percent of our diet,” she says. In general, we must “take responsibility” in personal and professional life.
Mummer: “If we care about the survival of the tiger and the panda, and the future of our children, we will have to eat less meat and fly less. Companies also have to make sustainable decisions. We all need to do something, recognizing that every day we push the boundaries of what they can handle. Our planet. What I’ve noticed is the younger generation saying: Stop it, arrange this. Justly.”
A version of this article also appeared in the October 14, 2022 newspaper