World / Kaleidoscope

Report: Biodiversity declining

By Wu Wencong ( Updated: 2012-05-15 19:42

A report released by the World Wide Fund for Nature on May 15 said biodiversity declined globally by 28 percent between 1970 and 2008, and it fell as much as 61 percent in the tropics.

Produced in collaboration with the Zoological Society of London and the Global Footprint Network, the WWF 2012 Living Planet Report tracked trends of more than 9,000 populations of almost 3,000 vertebrate species to measure the health of the planet’s ecosystems.

The report blames the drop in biodiversity in the past 40 years on the over-exploitation of natural resources by human activities and calls on world leaders to commit to a sustainable future at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, which is to be held in Rio de Janeiro in June.

"We are living as if we have an extra planet at our disposal. We are using 50 percent more resources than the Earth can provide," said Jim Leape, director-general of WWF International.

Materials extraction overall is up 41 percent over the past two decades. World plastics production has more than doubled since 1992, about half of it for disposable purposes, such as packaging, according to the report.

The worldwide drive to build new infrastructure has led to skyrocketing demand for concrete, the production of which has risen by 230 percent in the past 20 years, according to the report.

"The core problem is that the current resources we have and our production efficiency cannot meet the requirements of growing consumer demand, especially from high-income countries," said Li Lin, deputy country representative of WWF China.

The Living Planet Report found that countries with a higher per capita income consume five times more natural resources than low-income countries, which have much smaller populations. Still, the report showed a 7 percent increase in the biodiversity of high-income countries.

Li said this is likely to be due to a combination of factors. For one, these nations are able to purchase resources from lower-income countries, thereby simultaneously degrading biodiversity in those countries while maintaining their own.

The 31 percent decline of biodiversity in middle-income countries and the 60 percent decline in low-income countries can also be explained in this manner.

Given current trends, such as the deepening of the human footprint and the rapid consumption of natural resources, humanity will require two planets worth of resources by 2030 and about three by 2050, the report said.

Launched just five weeks before conference in Rio, the report reveals the fund’s high expectations for the summit.

"Rio+20 (The UN conference) can and must be the moment for governments to set a new course toward sustainability," Leape said.

Li Lin from WWF China also looks forward to the summit, "We are seeking commitments from top leaders at Rio+20, not treaties."

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