The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has released its 2006 Living Planet Report, the group’s biennial statement on the state of the natural world. The report says that the world’s natural ecosystems are being degraded at a rate unprecedented in human history.
On current projections humanity will be using two planets’ worth of natural resources by 2050 — if those resources have not run out by then. The report also shows that vertebrate species populations have declined by about one-third in the 33 years from 1970 to 2003. At the same time, humanity’s Ecological Footprint — the demand people place upon the natural world — has increased to the point where the Earth is unable to keep up in the struggle to regenerate.
The Living Planet Report pulls together various data to compile two indicators of the Earth’s well-being.
The first, the Living Planet Index, measures biodiversity, based on trends in more than 3,600 populations of 1,300 vertebrate species around the world. In all, data for 695 terrestrial, 344 freshwater and 274 marine species were analyzed. Terrestrial species declined by 31 per cent, freshwater species by 28 per cent, and marine species by 27 per cent.
The second index, the Ecological Footprint, measures humanity’s demand on the biosphere. Humanity’s footprint has more than tripled between 1961 and 2003. This report shows that our footprint exceeded biocapacity by 25 per cent in 2003. In the previous report (based on data to 2001), this figure was 21 per cent. The carbon dioxide footprint, from the use of fossil fuels, was the fastest growing component of our global footprint, increasing more than ninefold from 1961 to 2003.
Download the full report here. (Requires Adobe Acrobat)