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On the Decline: A Look at Earth’s Biodiversity Loss, By Region

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On the Decline: A Look at Earth’s Biodiversity Loss, By Region

The Briefing

  • The Living Planet Index (LPI) tracks the abundance of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians across the globe
  • Between 1970 and 2016, the average decline in vertebrate populations was 68%, but the rate of loss differs from region to region
  • Latin America & Caribbean has seen the largest drop in biodiversity at 94%

Visualizing the Decline of Earth’s Biodiversity, By Region

Earth’s biodiversity has seen an overall decrease across the globe. And while each region has seen a decline, some places have experienced higher drops than others.

Using data from WWF’s Living Planet Report 2020, we’ve ranked each region from the greatest average loss in biodiversity, to the least:

RankRegionAverage decline (between 1970 and 2016)
1Latin America & Caribbean94%
2Africa65%
3Asia Pacific45%
4North America33%
5Europe and Central Asia24%

Latin America and Caribbean has seen the most loss, with a 94% drop in average species populations, while Africa comes in second with a 65% drop.

The 5 Major Threats for Biodiversity Loss

While the rate of loss varies across regions, WWF has identified five major threats that are linked to drops in species populations across all regions:

  • Changes in land-use and sea use
    This threat refers to any changes in a species habitat, caused by mining, development, unsustainable agriculture, etc.
  • Species overexploitation
    There are two types of species overexploitation—direct and indirect. Direct is when a species is intentionally hunted. Indirect happens when a species is unintentionally killed (an example would be by-catch in fisheries).
  • Invasive species and disease
    This threat impacts species populations in several ways. Invasive species may spread diseases or may become predators to native species that are not equipped to defend themselves.
  • Pollution
    Pollutants can have both gradual and instant effects on a species. For example, an oil spill has an instant effect on a species’ environment. But other pollutants, such as microplastics, have a much more gradual impact on species health.
  • Climate Change
    This threat has an indirect impact on species. Changes in temperature as a result of climate change can trigger irregular season changes, which can affect natural phenomena like migration and mating seasons.

»Interested in learning more about Earth’s biodiversity, and some of its biggest threats? Read our full article Visualizing the Biggest Threats to Earth’s Biodiversity

Where does this data come from?

Source: Living Planet Report 2020.
Note: LPI measures the abundance of species populations. It measures the average rate of population change in species. It does not mean that specific percent of populations or individuals have been lost.

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