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[Animals] A 94% drop in vertebrate po[CENSORED]tions: alarming data on biodiversity in Latin America


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"The situation of the amphibians is really serious, particularly in the mountain ecosystems of the northern Andes," said Luis Germán Naranjo.




No, it's not the World Cup final in Qatar, but another international meeting that will compete with soccer for the public's attention: the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biodiversity or COP15, which will meet in Montreal.

The goal of the summit is to set goals and mechanisms to protect biodiversity globally, and the urgency of doing so was made even clearer by the new Living Planet Report just released.

The report, based on an index compiled every two years by the World Wide Fund for Nature, or WWF, and London Zoo, reveals a serious decline in wildlife. And the most vertiginous fall occurred, by far, in Latin America and the Caribbean.

At BBC Mundo we select two key figures from the document and we explain what they mean.

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69%: the average drop globally
The po[CENSORED]tions monitored and included in the report decreased between 1970 and 2018 by 69% on average at the planetary level.

To correctly understand this key data, it is necessary to make two clarifications, Luis Germán Naranjo, director of Conservation and Governance of WWF in Colombia, explained to BBC Mundo.

First of all, the report only talks about vertebrates. And within these it only considers 32,000 po[CENSORED]tions monitored by science and corresponding to 5,320 species in different parts of the world.

Graphic from the Living Planet Report showing the reduction of animals worldwide.
"For people to get an idea of this, you have to understand that only birds, for example, in the whole world there are around 11,000 species. If we add amphibians, and we add fish and mammals and reptiles, we are talking about more than one hundred thousand species," said Naranjo.

"Here we are talking about a sample."

Mountain gorilla in Uganda of the species Gorilla beringei beringei
The report only speaks of 32,000 monitored po[CENSORED]tions of vertebrates. And percentage declines refer to reductions in po[CENSORED]tions, not numbers of individuals.

The second clarification is that the average decline of 69% globally does not refer to the number of individual animals, but to the percentages in which the monitored po[CENSORED]tions were reduced.

The report explains this difference with an illuminating example.

Imagine we monitor three po[CENSORED]tions: birds, bears, and sharks. Birds decrease from 25 to 5, a drop of 80%. Bears drop from 50 to 45 animals, a 10% reduction. And sharks decrease from 20 to 8, a 60% decline.

In this example, the average reduction in po[CENSORED]tion size is then 50%. But the total number of animals fell from 150 to 92, a drop of about 39%.



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