World to Lose Two Thirds of Animals by 2020

Research shows that farming, hunting, and overfishing are the top culprits for loss of habitat and diversification of wildlife


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New research called the Living Planet Index, compiled by environmental group World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), reveals that by 2020, the number of wild animals living on Earth will decline to 67-percent of the totals recorded in 1970. Researchers found that animal populations across habitats have steadily plummeted between 1970 and 2012, and identified farming—land cleared to make room for growing animals for food—as a major contributor to the loss in the diversification of terrestrial wildlife. The hardest hit populations are those living in the water, as 81-percent of fish populations have been decimated since 1970. The report states, “The majority of the fish stocks that contribute most to global fish catch are now either fully fished or overfished.” To make matters worse, another report published in Royal Society Open Science on October 19 shows that 301 species of land mammals—particularly primates—have been eaten into extinction. “The richness and diversity of life on Earth is fundamental to the complex life systems that underpin it,” WWF’s Director Marco Lambertini says. “Life supports life itself, and we are part of the same equation. Lose biodiversity and the natural world, and the life support systems as we know them today will collapse.” The health of the planet is also in danger when it comes to the rise of carbon emissions. According to atmospheric scientist Ralph Keeling, the planet officially reached its carbon tipping point earlier this month. “We are no longer a small world on a big planet,” executive director of Stockholm Resilience Centre Johan Rockström says. “We are now a big world on a small planet, where we have reached a saturation point.”

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