WWF’s Living Planet Report reveals two-thirds decline in global wildlife populations


10 September 2020 – Global populations of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish have suffered an average two-thirds decline in less than half a century, according to WWF’s Living Planet Report 2020, released today.

The Living Planet Index (LPI), provided by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), shows that factors believed to increase the planet’s vulnerability to pandemics — including land-use change and the use and trade of wildlife — were also some of the drivers behind the 68 per cent average decline in global vertebrate species populations between 1970 and 2016.

The LPI, which tracked almost 21,000 populations of more than 4,000 vertebrate species between 1970 and 2016, also shows that wildlife populations found in freshwater habitats have suffered a decline of 84 per cent — the starkest average population decline in any biome, equivalent to 4 per cent per year since 1970.

The report follows the release of the Living Planet Report Canada 2020, which found that species of global conservation concern (wildlife assessed as at risk of global extinction by the International Union of Conservation of Nature) saw their Canadian populations fall by an average of 42 per cent since 1970. Furthermore, populations of Canadian species assessed as nationally at risk of extinction by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC — the scientific body that determines a species’ risk of extinction) declined by an average of 59 per cent in the same time period.

“The Living Planet Report 2020 underlines how humanity’s increasing destruction of nature is having catastrophic impacts not only on wildlife populations but also on human health and all aspects of our lives,” said Marco Lambertini, Director General, WWF International.

“We can’t ignore the evidence – these serious declines in wildlife species populations are an indicator that nature is unravelling and that our planet is flashing red warning signs of systems failure.”

WWF-Canada’s James Snider, VP of science, knowledge and innovation and Living Planet Report Canada 2020 lead added, “The findings of the Living Planet Report 2020 clearly show we are in the midst of a global biodiversity crisis — and Canada is included. We must now use this knowledge to act quickly and purposefully by implementing conservation actions that simultaneously target multiple threats to wildlife.”

What is the Living Planet Report?

The Living Planet Report 2020 presents a comprehensive overview of the state of our natural world through the LPI, which tracks trends in global wildlife abundance, and contributions from more than 125 experts from around the world. It shows that the main cause of the dramatic decline in species populations on land observed in the LPI is habitat loss and degradation, including deforestation, driven by how we as humanity produce food.

Notes to Editors

  • Using the data from 4,392 species and 20,811 populations, the 2020 global Living Planet Index shows an average 68 per cent decline in monitored populations. The percentage change in the index reflects the average proportional change in animal population sizes tracked over 46 years, not the number of individual animals lost.
  • The LPR 2020 is the thirteenth edition of WWF’s biennial flagship publication.
  • The full Living Planet Report 2020 and summary versions of the report are available here.
  • The Living Planet Report Canada 2020 is available here


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About World Wildlife Fund Canada 
WWF-Canada creates solutions to the environmental challenges that matter most for Canadians. We work in places that are unique and ecologically important, so that nature, wildlife and people thrive together. Because we are all wildlife. For more information, visit wwf.ca.

About ZSL

ZSL (Zoological Society of London) is an international conservation charity working to create a world where wildlife thrives. From investigating the health threats facing animals to helping people and wildlife live alongside each other, ZSL is committed to bringing wildlife back from the brink of extinction. Our work is realised through our ground-breaking science, our field conservation around the world and engaging millions of people through our two zoos, ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo. For more information, visit www.zsl.org.