WWF Living Planet Report: Devastating 69% drop in wildlife populations since 1970

Posted on October, 13 2022

Wildlife populations - mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish - have seen a devastating 69% drop on average since 1970, according to WWF’s Living Planet Report (LPR) 2022.
The report highlights the stark outlook of the state of nature and urgently warns governments, businesses and the public to take transformative action to reverse the destruction of biodiversity.

We face the double emergencies of human-induced climate change and biodiversity loss, threatening the well-being of current and future generations. WWF is extremely worried by this new data showing a devastating fall in wildlife populations, in particular in tropical regions that are home to some of the most biodiverse landscapes in the world,” said Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International. 

Europe is one of the regions that scores lowest for “biodiversity intactness”, and it is important to note that much biodiversity had already been depleted by the Living Planet Index’ 1970 baseline year. Consequently, the wildlife populations decline of 18% in the region of “Europe and Central Asia” may not seem as drastic as the more steeply declining trends in other regions, which have been subject to human impact more recently. Nevertheless, it is alarming to see that the downward trend in Europe still continues despite some conservation successes. 

The findings also show that bringing nature back to Europe will be critical. In June 2022, the European Commission presented its proposal for a new EU law which aims to drive the restoration of ecosystems at land and at sea, and to contribute to the EU’s objectives concerning climate change mitigation and adaptation.

“In Europe, we have already lost much of our nature and biodiversity, and the continuing downward trend is highly alarming. The proposed EU nature restoration law is a massive opportunity to bring nature back, with unparalleled benefits for nature, climate and people. This law is a smart response of the European Commission to increase Europe’s resilience to droughts, floods, fires and other extreme weather events, and it will also contribute to our long-term food security,” said Andreas Baumüller, Head of Natural Resources at the WWF European Policy Office. 

“WWF urges the European Parliament and EU Member States to adopt an ambitious law which will drive large-scale restoration, and quickly. This can be the turning point where we finally realise that the recovery of nature will boost not only the planet’s health but also our wellbeing and economies.”

With its biggest dataset yet, featuring almost 32,000 populations of 5,230 species, the Living Planet Index (LPI), provided within the report by ZSL (Zoological Society of London), shows it is within tropical regions that monitored vertebrate wildlife populations are plummeting at a particularly staggering rate. In particular the data reveals that between 1970 and 2018, monitored wildlife populations in Latin America and the Caribbean region have dropped by 94% on average. 

“It truly is frightening. Every year, we lose 10 million hectares of forests -  about the size of Portugal - and the Amazonas, one of the biggest rainforests in the world, is close to the tipping point. This destruction will affect all of our lives, our climate, our food security, and the livelihoods of millions on this planet,” said Anke Schulmeister, Senior Policy Officer at the WWF European Policy Office. “The European institutions are currently negotiating a law which would help curb global deforestation driven by EU consumption, and this data shows that we have no time to lose to make this law a reality!” 

World leaders are due to meet at the 15th Conference of Parties to the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD COP15) this December for a once-in-a-decade opportunity to course-correct for the sake of people and the planet. WWF is advocating for leaders to commit to a ‘Paris-style’ agreement capable of reversing biodiversity loss to secure a nature-positive world by 2030.

The world's richest nations have a responsibility to provide financial support to biodiversity-rich developing countries - not only because of the numerous benefits biodiversity provides to all, but also due to the fact that consumption habits of wealthy countries disproportionately drive nature loss in other parts of the world.

Notes to Editors:
  • The 2022 global Living Planet Index (LPI) shows an average 69% decline in monitored vertebrate wildlife populations. The percentage change in the index reflects the average proportional change in animal population sizes tracked over 48 years - not the number of individual animals lost nor the number of populations lost.
  • The LPR 2022 is the 14th edition of WWF's biennial flagship publication; for more information and to download the full report, visit Living Planet Report 2022.
  • The Living Planet Report 2022 “Biodiversity Intactness Index” shows that Europe is one of the regions that scores lowest for biodiversity intactness.
  • Freshwater species populations have seen the greatest overall global decline (83%), and within this species group, on average, monitored migratory fish populations have declined by 76% between 1970 and 2016 globally, but as much as 93% in Europe, making our continent the most affected.
  • Please note that successive iterations of the LPI are not directly comparable as they contain different sets of species. It is also important to note that the 1970 baseline holds different significance for the various regions monitored. In Europe and North America, pressures had been impacting species and habitats for many decades prior to 1970 so while the declines in these regions are ostensibly not as steep, it does not mean biodiversity is more intact in these regions. In fact, the report’s Biodiversity Intactness Index shows that Europe is one of the regions that scores lowest for biodiversity intactness. Conversely, tropical regions would have started at a more intact baseline in 1970 but have since experienced more rapid changes to their ecosystems.
  • The LPI is an early warning indicator on the health of nature. This year’s edition analyses almost 32,000 species populations - with more than 838 new species and just over 11,000 new populations added since the previous report came out in 2020. It provides the most comprehensive measure of how species are responding to pressures in their environment driven by biodiversity loss and climate change, also allowing us to understand the impact of people on biodiversity. 

About WWF
WWF is an independent conservation organization, with over 30 million followers and a global network active in nearly 100 countries. Our mission is to stop the degradation of the planet's natural environment and to build a future in which people live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption. www.panda.org 

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. www.zsl.org 
Angelika Pullen
Communications Director
WWF European Policy Office
+32 473 947 966
Mountain Gorilla in the Virunga National Park. Democratic Republic of the Congo.
© Paul Robinson