A new study by the World Wildlife Foundation Canada has discovered that, between 1970 and 2014, numbers of all monitored species in Canada declined by half. The newly released Living Planet Report Canada shows that the 83% decline over the time period was true for every wildlife group that was monitored, including birds, fish, reptiles, mammals and amphibians.
The study, which WWF claims is the most detailed to date, examined more than 900 animals. Several of the species found to be in decline were already classified as threatened or endangered.
With Canada home to more than 8,500 rivers, 2 million lakes and approximately a quarter of the Earth’s wetlands, the news is of great concern for the current state of wildlife and future of the country’s species. “For many Canadians, it’s somewhat of a surprise,” says James Snider, who led the WWF report. “Canada is this vast nation with huge wilderness areas, at times we assume that wildlife here is doing OK.”
Snider explains that human activity and climate change are the two biggest causes of wildlife decline. Deforestation, farming, pollution and overfishing all contributed to the dramatic decrease in wildlife numbers. “We need to be effectively monitoring today the status of wildlife populations so that we can understand the impacts of climate change on a lot of really unique and important species in the Canadian north.”
While some species, such as the peregrine falcon, were found to be increasing in population, the overwhelming number in decline calls for immediate action. “This is a clear message that we need to be doing more to prevent the decline of wildlife,” Snider says. “If the rate of decline of wildlife continues as it is today, I do think we face the risk of beginning to lose species from Canada.”