Friday, November 13, 2015

China's animal populations halved over past 40 years

The population of China's terrestrial vertebrates, which includes birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles, declined by nearly half in the past 40 years, a report jointly released by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development revealed on Thursday.

Even though China still has rich biodiversity, it has also experienced one of the greatest biodiversity losses globally, the "Living Planet Report, China 2015" report said.

Data was collected from 1,385 animal different populations, representing 405 species of birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles between 1970 and 2010. It found that terrestrial vertebrates decreased by 49.7 percent, with amphibians and reptiles declining at a staggering 97.44 percent.

Habitat fragmentation, habitat loss, climate change, invasion of alien species, pollution and diseases were the main culprits for the declines.

Meanwhile, China's resident bird populations remained relatively stable during the period, increasing by 43 percent at the turn of the century thanks to a growing number of nature reserves and protection laws and regulations.

The report also pointed out that the country's per capita ecological footprint, a measurement of human demand for natural resources, was double China's available capacity in 2010.

It means the country was "unable to provide sufficient renewable resources and services for the Chinese population," Li Lin, executive program director of WWF China, explained.

"If everyone on this planet had the same ecological footprint as the average Chinese resident, we would need approximately 1.3 Earths to support our demands from nature," she added.

According to the report, the ecological deficit has already impacted the environment, including forest degradation, drought, soil erosion, water shortages, increasing carbon dioxide and biodiversity loss.

"The ecological footprint will provide Chinese leaders with an environmental reference in policy making," said Mathis Wackernagel, president and co-founder of Global Footprint Network.

"Living Planet Report, China 2015" is the WWF's fourth report focused on the country's demand on nature, since the first one was released in 2008.

"Indicators presented in this report will help us to better understand the health of the environment and ecosystem of China, our impact upon it, and possible implications," said Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International. 


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