WWF’s New Living Planet Report shows biodiversity continues alarming decline with Freshwater Biodiversity under Greatest ThreatUnsustainable human activity continues to accelerate biodiversity loss, pushing the planet’s natural systems to the brink, according to the latest WWF Living Planet Report released today. The latest report shows that global populations of vertebrate species have declined by an average of 68 per cent since 1970. Efforts are underway to incorporate information on invertebrates, which are crucial to the functioning of ecosystems and maintaining biodiversity and have also seen alarming levels of decline.
“This report is the longest-running scientific study that provides an overview of how fast we are losing our planet’s biodiversity in the last 50 years. The latest findings are an urgent call for action to avoid a catastrophic loss of the earth’s biodiversity,” says Dr David Olson, Director of Conservation, WWF-Hong Kong. “Biodiversity loss is not just a conservation issue but is very much linked to the wellbeing of societies and economies.”
Produced in collaboration with the Zoological Society of London, the latest biannual report shows that freshwater biodiversity is declining at a far faster rate than in oceans or on land. Nearly 90 per cent of global wetlands have been lost since 1700 and are still being destroyed three times faster than forests. More than 80 per cent of East and Southeast Asia’s wetlands are now classified as threatened due to human activity. In the Pearl River Delta area, most wetlands are now converted to other uses, with very few scattered natural patches remaining. For example, over 50 per cent of urban land have been reclaimed from wetlands.
Conservation of freshwater biodiversity is a priority for Hong Kong’s Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan and WWF-Hong Kong. “All life depends on water. But some of the major threats to Hong Kong’s ecology is deterioration of water quality due to agricultural, industrial and domestic discharge. The biodiversity of Hong Kong’s streams and wetlands, especially the invertebrate aquatic life, are especially sensitive to such deterioration and are indicators of ecosystem health that signal early warnings to us,” says Dr Eric Wikramanayake, Director of Wildlife and Wetlands, WWF-Hong Kong.
WWF works to protect and restore healthy streams and wetlands wherever they occur. For almost four decades, WWF-Hong Kong has contributed to managing the Mai Po wetlands. We also focus on the streams, wetlands and coastal habitats of South Lantau Island that support important biodiversity and natural resources, such as the clams and Chinese horseshoe crab in the sandflats of Shui Hau. The coastal wetlands require urgent protection as they are rapidly being developed.
Notably the report shows that human land-use change, and, increasingly, climate change, are altering landscapes worldwide, leading to significant biodiversity loss among both plants and animals. The latest study provides a roadmap to how society can reverse biodiversity loss, namely by changing our current system of land-use – the strongest driver of terrestrial biodiversity loss.
WWF-Hong Kong calls on the government to do its part by rethinking its land development policies and moving away from ocean reclamation. And while species and habitat conservation is critical, it is not enough – societies need to transform food production and consumption efforts in order to bend the curve of loss upwards.
“We can no longer afford to allow ecosystems to continue their decline which will come at a great cost to economies like Hong Kong,” says Peter Cornthwaite, CEO, WWF-Hong Kong.
“It’s time for our community to work together to reverse nature loss. That means the government introducing measures to help end the illegal wildlife trade; businesses adopting measures to lower their carbon footprint; institutional investors putting money into sustainable projects; and consumers adopting a greener lifestyle such as by choosing sustainable seafood and reducing waste. Our work focuses on these key areas in order to help transform Hong Kong into Asia’s most sustainable city.”