Monday, May 19, 2008

WWF: Wildlife Numbers Plummet Globally

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The world's wildlife populations have reduced by around a quarter since the 1970s, according to a major report published Friday by the World Wildlife Fund.

Marine species have been particularly hard hit as the human population booms, while numbers of birds and, fish and animals have also gone down, said the WWF in a report.

The study comes ahead of next week's U.N. convention on biological diversity in the former West German capital Bonn, which will discuss aims to achieve a "significant reduction" in the current rate of biodiversity loss by 2010. The WWF, the world's largest independent conservation body, said it was "very unlikely" that the U.N. would meet its targets, despite the decline appearing to flatten off in recent years.

The WWF's Living Planet Index, which tracks the fortunes of nearly 4,000 populations of 1,477 vertebrate species from 1970 to 2005, showed an overall decline of 27 percent. Over-fishing and hunting, along with farming, pollution and urban expansion, were blamed.

WWF director general James Leape warned: "Reduced biodiversity means millions of people face a future where food supplies are more vulnerable to pests and disease and where water is in irregular or short supply. No one can escape the impact of biodiversity loss because reduced global diversity translates quite clearly into fewer new medicines, greater vulnerability to natural disasters and greater effects from global warming."

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