Half of Canada's Wildlife Species are in Decline, WWF Finds

Half of Canada's Wildlife Species are in Decline, WWF Finds

Despite Canada's vast wilderness, populations of half its vertebrate species are shrinking, a new World Wildlife Fund report finds. And endangered species like woodland caribou and St. Lawrence beluga whales continue to disappear even after becoming protected by federal laws.

The Living Planet Report Canada, released Thursday morning by the conservation group WWF-Canada, found 451 of 903 mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian and fish species across the country — half the species in the study — declined in number between 1970 and 2014. 

James Snider, vice-president for science research and innovation at WWF-Canada and the lead author of the report, said that was a surprise.

"Frankly, as a Canadian, I think we all pride ourselves in the relative wilderness," he said, "and we almost have an assumption … that most of our wildlife would be doing well."

On average, the species that were declining lost 83 per cent of their Canadian population during the study period.

  • Mammals declined an average of 43 per cent.
  • Amphibians and reptiles lost 34 per cent of their populations on average.
  • Fish populations declined by 20 per cent.
  • Grassland birds dropped 69 per cent, aerial insectivores (such as swallows and martins) fell 51 per cent, and shorebird populations declined by 43 per cent, even as waterfowl and birds of prey increased.

Declines were seen in species across the country, but grassland species such as bobolinks showed some of the sharpest drops.

The report analyzed publicly available population data from places like scientific databases and journals using the Living Planet Index, a peer-reviewed method developed by the London Zoological Society. It's also used by the WWF to create global reports on vertebrate population trends every two years.

 

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