Safeguarding a Future for WildlifeCanada is home to about 80,000 species including the iconic caribou, polar bear and narwhal – but many of them are facing numerous threats to their survival. WWF-Canada’s 2017 Living Planet Report Canada (LPRC) looked at data from 1970 to 2014 for 903 wildlife species in the country and found that half were in decline. Of those in decline, we found an average decline of 83 per cent. This trend cannot be ignored.
The world could lose two-thirds of wild animals by 2020
A decline in biodiversity isn’t just an issue in Canada, but one that we must tackle globally. In 2016, WWF found that populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles worldwide declined by 58 per cent.
Species at Risk
In Canada, over 600 plant and animal species at risk are currently protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). While it’s possible for species to rebound after being on the brink of extinction, as a few species such as the peregrine falcon and white pelican have done, we found an overall troubling trend for species at risk in our LPRC. Once SARA was enacted in 2002, species listed under the act continued to decline, on average by 28 per cent. Canada is failing our most vulnerable wildlife.
IUCN maintains a Red List, which includes over 26,000 species worldwide that are at risk of extinction. While 26,197 species are considered vulnerable, critically endangered or endangered, the number could be much higher due to a lack of data and monitoring of animal populations.
Threats to WildlifeAs human populations continue to grow, the demand on natural resources increases. At any given time, species at risk face two or more broad-scale threats (on average).
Habitat loss and fragmentation
Habitat loss is the greatest threat to species in Canada and around the world. Protecting and restoring natural habitats is one of the most effective ways to help wildlife.
In Canada, the rate of warming has increased nearly double the global average. A rapidly changing climate can shift timing of the seasons, making it more difficult for species to find food or migrate.
Ecosystems can be exposed to many types of pollutants. From agricultural and industrial runoff to microplastics, contaminants can harm or kill plants and wildlife.
Introduced species compete with native species for space, food and other resources; and some prey on native species.
Overexploitation impacts wildlife on land and in water. For example, overexploitation of marine fish is taking its toll on our oceans. Bycatch—the incidental capture of non-target species—has led to the decline of the porbeagle shark and vaquita, among others.
What is WWF Doing?
Conserving biodiversity is at the heart of all we do at WWF, including pushing for stronger protections for wildlife and supporting other conservation groups who are working on the ground. Through initiatives like our Arctic Species Conservation Fund, we support research on the polar bear, barren-ground caribou, walrus, narwhal, bowhead whale and beluga whale. The more we know about these species, the better we can protect them. We also support freshwater monitoring and restoration projects around the country through the Loblaw Water Fund and the WWF Restoration Fund, because when ecosystems are in good health, wildlife has a better chance of thriving.
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Why Biodiversity Matters
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