27 Oct 2016


By 2020 global wildlife numbers will plunge to a third of what they were in 1970 as a result of destruction and degradation of habitats, according to WWF’s Living Planet Report 2016.

Living Planet Report 2016: Risk and resilience in a new era is the eleventh edition of WWF's biennial flagship publication. The report tracks over 14,000 vertebrate populations of over 3,700 species from 1970 to 2012.

The report shows how people are overpowering the planet for the first time in Earth’s history and highlights the changes needed in the way society is fed and fuelled.

Key findings in the Living Planet Report 2016 show that:

  • By 2012, vertebrate wildlife numbers fell to 42% of what they were in 1970, slashed by more than half on average. This is an average annual decline of 2 per cent – and there is no sign yet that this rate will decrease. If this downward trend persists, wildlife numbers will decline to just one third of 1970 levels in just half a century.
  • The planet is entering completely unchartered territory in its history in which humanity is shaping changes on the Earth, including a possible sixth mass extinction. Researchers are already calling this period the Anthropocene. Future geologist may identify the Anthropocene epoch in the rock record via a range of potential markers including plastics in marine sediments and a rapid decline in the number of species based on clues in the fossil record.

Implications for Australia

WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman said food production is one of the primary causes of biodiversity loss here in Australia and around the world.

“The world will need to feed over 9 billion people by 2050,” Mr O’Gorman said.

“We have to do this without further degrading the environment that actually provides us with the means to live."

“That means producing 70% more food than today, and current production and consumption practices won’t make that possible - threatening already stretched fisheries and with limits upon available land, and clearing trees and vital habitat for food production."

“Tree clearing is out of control in Queensland and more than 2.2 million hectares of koala habitat could be cleared under proposed changes in NSW. But if our parliaments act now, we can save our last remaining areas of forest and bush from the bulldozers."

“The decisions that businesses make every day – about how to produce and deliver goods and services, and how and what inputs they use – have major impacts on the health of the planet. For example aquaculture, properly practised, is one part of the food solution. If farmed to the highest standards, a piece of salmon can produce ten times less the carbon emissions than a piece of beef.”

What can I do?

While governments and industry need to act, there are also many things we can all do to help change the trajectory of the planet, including:

  • Purchase your electricity from renewable sources of energy like wind and solar – most Australian electricity retailers now provide this option
  • Reduce food waste – plan before you shop, eat food before it expires, store food you can’t use immediately, and love your leftovers
  • Eat smarter — if you like red meat, look for sustainably-produced products and let your retailer know your preference
  • Recycle plastic bottles and say no to plastic bags
  • Shift some or all of your superannuation to funds that consider and minimise impacts on the environment, such as those certified by the Responsible Investment Association Australasia (RIAA)
  • Look and ask for certified sustainable products at the supermarket, such as Marine Stewardship Council certified tuna and Aquaculture Stewardship Council certified salmon, Forest Stewardship Council certified paper and wood products, Bonsucro certified sugar, or products that contain palm oil certified by the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil.

WWF-Australia Media Contact:

Daniel Rockett, 0432 206 592, drockett@wwf.org.au