Australia’s east coast named as ‘deforestation front’ in WWF Living Planet report – The Guardian

By October 31, 2018 February 15th, 2019 Archive

Assessment underscores threat to koalas and other native species

Ben Smee            @BenSmee           Tue 30 Oct 2018 11.00 AEDT

WWF report warns annihilation of wildlife threatens civilisation – video

Australia’s east coast has been compared to the Amazon as a “deforestation front” in a new global report by the World Wide Fund for Nature that underscores the threat to populations of koalas and other native species.

The Living Planet report, produced by WWF every second year for the past 20 years, says global populations of vertebrate species have declined 60% since 1970. But koala numbers have disappeared at a much faster rate – more than 20% a decade – to the extent they could disappear from the wild in New South Wales by 2050.

The report assessed 11 deforestation hotspots, where broadscale clearing had occurred at problematic levels since 2010, and where deforestation was expected to continue in the next decade. Eastern Australia was the only location in the developed world to make the list.

“It is a wake-up call for our east coast to appear alongside notorious forest destruction hotspots such as the Amazon, Congo basin, Sumatra and Borneo,” said the chief executive of WWF Australia, Dermot O’Gorman.

“The plight of koalas is matched by alarming declines for many other uniquely Australian species who are losing their forest homes.”

This year the Queensland government introduced laws designed to curb broadscale clearing. WWF Australia said NSW last year scrapped laws protecting koala forests, which had increased the destruction of habitat threefold.

“Buying land is welcome but will only save a fraction of koala habitat,” O’Gorman said. “Stronger forest protection laws are crucial.”

The Living Planet report says clearing for livestock is the primary cause of deforestation on the east coast. Unsustainable logging is also a concern.

Report calls for new global compact

The report says extinction rates among species are 100 to 1,000 times faster than the “background rate” before human pressures became a prominent factor.

The report’s index, which says global vertebrate populations are declining at a rate of 13.6% a decade, was compiled by tracking 16,704 populations of 4,005 species since 1970.

The report says nature provides services for humanity worth US$125tn a year, but that human consumption is “severely undermining” nature’s ability to power and sustain societies and economies.

WWF is calling for a new global deal for nature, “a companion to the Paris climate agreement” to aid conservation outcomes. An “urgent, ambitious and effective” agreement could be struck in November, when representatives from 196 countries meet in Egypt to discuss progress of the convention on biological diversity.

“It is time the world comes together to deliver an urgent, ambitious and effective global agreement for nature, as the world did for climate in Paris in 2015,” WWF says in a briefing note accompanying the report.

“A set of collective actions are needed, together with a roadmap for targets, indicators and metrics for reversing nature loss, including, for example, scenarios for land-use change, dietary shifts, sustainable harvesting as well as traditional conservation approaches such as protected areas.”

The director general of WWF International, Marco Lambertini, said the world had taken nature for granted.

“It is time we realised that a healthy, sustainable future for all is only possible on a planet where nature thrives and forests, oceans and rivers are teeming with biodiversity and life,” Lambertini said.

“We need to urgently rethink how we use and value nature – culturally, economically and on our political agendas. We need to think of nature as beautiful and inspirational, but also as indispensable. We, and the planet, need a new global deal for nature and people now.”