New data from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) have shown that global populations of fish, reptiles, birds, mammals and amphibians declined by 58 percent on average between 1970 and 2012.
This decline could steepen to 67 percent by the end of the decade, according to the newest edition of the WWF's Living Planet Report. The WWF said its report made use of the ZSL's Living Planet Index in order to keep abreast of "trends in wildlife abundance."
"For the first time since the demise of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, we face a global mass extinction of wildlife," Mike Barrett, WWF-UK's director of science and policy, said in a statement.
"We ignore the decline of other species at our peril – for they are the barometer that reveals our impact on the world that sustains us," Barrett added. "Humanity's misuse of natural resources is threatening habitats, pushing irreplaceable species to the brink and threatening the stability of our climate."
Wake up call:
In a news release on Thursday, the ZSL said that human actions had had an impact on everything from African elephants in Tanzania to leatherback turtles in the tropical Atlantic and maned wolves in Brazil.
The ZSL added that a range of factors including pollution, overfishing and the illegal wildlife trade – together with climate change – were pushing "species populations to the edge."
"Human behavior continues to drive the decline of wildlife populations globally, with particular impact on freshwater habitats," Ken Norris, director of science at the ZSL, said. "Importantly, however, these are declines – they are not yet extinctions – and this should be a wake-up call to marshal efforts to promote the recovery of these populations."
Today's data is the latest in a series of reports showing how humans are impacting nature and the environment. In September, for example, the State of Nature Report 2016 – to which more than 50 wildlife organizations contributed – found that of 8,000 species assessed according to modern Red List criteria, over 10 percent were under threat of vanishing from the U.K. altogether.
"Escalating pressures, such as climate change and modern land management, mean that we continue to lose the precious wildlife that enriches our lives and is essential to the health and well-being of those who live in the U.K., and also in its Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories," renowned broadcaster and naturalist David Attenborough said in a foreword to the report.
"Our wonderful nature is in serious trouble and it needs our help as never before," he added.