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World may lose 2/3rd of its wildlife by 2020, 6th extinction on cards: WWF

New Delhi: The future of many living organisms is under question as the world may loss 68 percent of its wildlife by 2020 — a possible prelude for the sixth mass extinction, a major WWF report has said.

According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)-Living Plant Report 2016, 58 per cent of the global population of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles has already been lost between 1970 and 2012.

These patterns are directly attributed to human induced climate change.

The report says that about 41 percent, mammals, 46 per cent reptiles, 57 per cent amphibians and 70 per cent freshwater fishese are “threatened with extinction” in India. Four of the 385 species of mammals are already extinct in India.

Seven per cent of birds may also extinct in the world.

Globally between 1970 and 2012, 38 per cent of the terrestrial population, 81 per cent of fresh water population and 36 per cent of the marine population had declined.

“Habitat loss and degradation and over exploitation of wildlife are the most common threats to the terrestrial population,” the report says.

As per the report, by 2000, 48.5 per cent of the tropical and subtropical dry broadleaf forest habitat had been converted for human use. This has led to a 41 per cent overall decline in tropical forest species.

The report held food production to meet the complex demands of an expanding human population as primary reason of the destruction of habitats and over-exploitation of wildlife.

The world’s population has grown from about 1.6 billion people in 1900 to today’s 7.3 billion.

“By 2012, the bio-capacity equivalent of 1.6 Earths was needed to provide the natural resources and services humanity consumed in that year,” the report said, pointing out how planetary boundaries were stretched due to human-produced alterations to the functioning of the Earth system.

WWF focused on nine such alterations including unsustainable fresh water use and ocean acidification. As per studies, by 2050 there will be more polythene in the ocean than fish.

“This is not just about the wonderful species we all love. Biodiversity forms the foundation of healthy forests, rivers and oceans. Take away the species and these ecosystems will collapse along with the clean air, water, food and climate services that they provide us,” said Dr. Marco Lambertini, International Director General, WWF.

The researchers are already calling this time as “Anthropocene” — an era during which the climate changes, oceans acidify and the entire community of flora and fauna disappears — during a single human lifetime.

All these changes may lead to the world’s sixth extinction, following the extinction of reptiles, mammals (twice) and dinosaurs (twice).

As per IUCN, the total threatened animal species has increased from 5,205 to 8,462 since 1996. India, Indonesia, Brazil and China are among the countries with the most threatened mammals and birds.

“Not only wild plants and animals are at risk, people are victims of the deteriorating nature. Patterns suggest that without action during the Anthropocene the earth will become much less hospitable to our modern globalized society,” the report says.

India ranks fifth in terms of bio-capacity — means an ecosystem capable of producing resources like food, fiber and absorbing carbon dioxide. However large population size and growing wealth which may change the consumption pattern is a challenge.

“Our consumption patterns are constantly shaping the future of our planet,” said Ravi Singh, CEO, WWF-India.

WWF however finds addressing the social inequality and environment degradation as best remedy.

“There is still considerable room for optimism. Fortunately, we are not starting from scratch. We must create a new economic system that enhances and supports the natural capital upon which it relies,” says WWF.

While the prediction of losing two-third of global wildlife population is expected by 2020, the the landmark Paris climate agreement (COP21) that would enter into force the same year, is seen as another sign of optimism.

–IANS