Source: Small Island Developing States
13 August 2019: The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) released a report that finds forest vertebrate populations declined by 53% on average between 1970 and 2014. The report warns this decline has “serious consequences for forest integrity and climate change.”
The report titled, ‘Below the Canopy: Plotting Global Trends in Forest Wildlife Populations,’ provides evidence to inform discussions and negotiations around a ‘New Deal for Nature and People’, arguing that biodiversity below the forest canopy is a critical, yet often under-appreciated, component of healthy functioning forest ecosystems. The report also aims to support synergies among the post-2020 biodiversity framework, the Paris Agreement on climate change and the SDGs.
The report finds that deforestation and habitat loss are a major driver in the loss of forest species, accounting for approximately 60% of the threats to forest specialists. Other drivers of species loss include climate change, invasive species, over-exploitation and disease. Declines were highest in tropical forest areas, including the Amazon rainforest. To restore forest biodiversity, the report recommends tackling deforestation and increasing forest cover while also addressing the multiple pressures faced by forest species.
The report recommends that the post-2020 global biodiversity framework include a direct measure of forest biodiversity.
The report cautions, however, that “changes in tree cover do not always reflect changes in the populations of animals below the canopy.” Consequently, the report argues that forest cover is not an appropriate proxy for measuring global forest biodiversity. The report therefore recommends the post-2020 global biodiversity framework include a direct measure of forest biodiversity as well as forest quality, quantity and cover. The report proposes the Forest Specialist Index as a tool to track the status of forest vertebrate populations and to provide an improved measure of forest ecosystem health. To inform conservation strategies, the report calls for greater investment in long-term, systematic forest biodiversity monitoring.
The report highlights success stories where forest specialist populations have recovered. In Costa Rica, the establishment of Santa Rosa National Park in 1971 helped protect the forest areas from hunting, logging and other human disturbances, contributing to forest regeneration. As the forests began to recover, the area’s monkey populations also increased. Other success stories, such as the recovery of the mountain gorilla, aim to illustrate how the right strategies, such as combining habitat restoration with community engagement in anti-poaching strategies, can help support the recovery of forest vertebrate populations. [Publication: Below the Canopy: Plotting Global Trends in Forest Wildlife Populations] [WWF Press Release]