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Times of Israel: Alarming New Study on Steep Wildlife Decline

Times of Israel: Alarming New Study on Steep Wildlife Decline

February 4, 2022

Research News

The Times of Israel — A new paper by Israeli researchers has not only confirmed a disputed estimate that wildlife populations have declined by over two-thirds in the past 50 years, but showed that the true drop may have been even more severe.

All images from Wikimedia Commons via Ben Gurion University of the Negev

The study, published last week in the journal Nature, should spur people to action and reconsider the relationship between human beings and nature, said the authors, from Ben Gurion University of the Negev and Tel Aviv University.

Researchers had re-examined findings of 2020 Living Planet Report, compiled biannually for the past 24 years by the World Wildlife Fund and the Zoological Society of London, which estimated there was an average 68 percent drop in vertebrate populations around the world between 1970 and 2016.

Some scientists had challenged the figure, saying it was skewed by a few populations that had experienced a massive decline and were “tipping the scales for all 20,811 of the populations monitored in the Living Planet Report,” the statement said.

BGU Postodoctural Researcher Gopal Murali, lead author of the paper, said criticism of the report “was unfair” because its detractors had adjusted the estimate by removing less than 3% of the most declining populations, arriving a new figure that showed no net loss trend.

“However, by removing only those populations experiencing greatest declines – these researchers, in essence, gave much more weight to those populations showing greatest increases,” he explained.

The Israeli researchers rebalanced the estimate by also removing the most increasing populations, arriving at a 65% decline over the past five decades.

“This is truly alarming,” said co-author Gabriel Caetano, also from Ben-Gurion University and co-lead author of the paper. “If populations inside protected areas – where we focus a lot of our conservation efforts – are doing so badly, those that reside outside protected areas are probably worse off. The true situation of nature – mostly not monitored or protected – may be much worse.”


Read more in The Times of Israel >>