Thursday, October 1, 1998 Published at 09:01 GMT 10:01 UK
Destruction of natural world 'speeding up'
Source of figures: World Wide Fund for Nature
Time is running out for the natural world - at a faster rate than anyone had previously thought possible, according to nature conservation experts.
In a report the conservation agency reveals what it calls a Living Planet Index - a type of global health check showing the damage that has been done to the environment in just one generation. The WWF hopes the bleak picture will scare governments into taking action.
Ecosystems under threat
Natural forests have declined by more than 10% in the same period. The amount of forest lost every year is equivalent in size to the area covered by England and Wales.
The index will be updated annually and is available for all to see on the WWF website.
"You hear a lot about forest and marine environments being under attack - but the fact is that freshwater ecosystems have been hardest hit, although they've received the least attention," he said.
Species in decline
But does the report's grim findings mean that many species have become extinct all over the globe? According to the experts that is difficult to prove because a species has to disappear for 50 years before it can be declared extinct - but it is certain is that many species are in decline.
Mr Loh cites the example of the island of Mauritius where nearly 40% of the bird and animal species are threatened as a result of habitat loss and the introduction of invasive species, not native to the island.
Another area where species are in decline is in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Marine fish consumption has more than doubled since 1960 and this over-exploitation of fish stocks combined with pollution has badly affected marine life.
The developed world 'to blame'
Although the report is bleak, the WWF says some of the decline can be reversed if people in the developed world commit themselves to action on a personal level.
The agency recommends that everyone takes a look at their own consumption habits and adjust them, for example: by using less water and recycling packaging.
Professor Ghillean Prance, Director of the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, in London, says the report is "something definite" that can be used in conservation planning.
"I hope that the Living Planet Index will really frighten the world into action," he said.