Living Planet Report 2004

On October 21, 2004, WWF International released its fifth Living Planet Report. The report uses new scientific analysis, provided by Global Footprint Network, to compare the Ecological Footprints of 150 nations.
The Living Planet Report 2004 includes more sophisticated data and analysis, more detailed time trends, and more robust results than years past. It confirms that ecological overshoot has become a reality: humanity is now consuming over 20 percent more natural resources than the Earth can produce, causing rapid declines in wild animal populations.
Designed to track humanity's demand on the Earth, the 2004 report illustrates how human consumption and production pressures continue to strain ecosystem health. It also uses Ecological Footprint analysis to highlight ways to reverse these trends and become less dependent on liquidating the planet's resources.

  • The global Ecological Footprint - humanity's consumption of natural resources expressed in land and sea surfaces necessary to renew them - is an average of 2.2 global hectares (5.4 global acres) per person, while the area available to support the global population (6.3 billion) is an average of 1.8 global hectares (4.4 global acres) per person.  
  • These 2.2 global hectares are 20 percent more than the global 1.8 hectares per person that exist - the latter area also needs to accommodate all non-human species. As a consequence, humanity's ecological overshoot exceeds Earth's regenerative capacity by at least 20 percent.  
  • Furthermore, the global Ecological Footprint grew by 150 percent between 1961 and 2000.  
  • From 1991 to 2001, essentially the ten years after the United Nations Rio conference in 1992, the Footprint in the 27 wealthiest countries increased on average by 8 per cent per person, while in the rest of the world, it shrank by 8 per cent per person. In the same time period, the biocapacity available worldwide decreased 12 per cent per person.  
  • As humanity's Footprint grows, the world's wild vertebrate populations shrink. The report's Living Planet Index shows a 40 percent decline in terrestrial, freshwater, and marine species populations during 1970 to 2000. While freshwater species have experienced the most dramatic decline since 1970, 50 percent, terrestrial and marine species have suffered a 30 percent population decline since the '70s. Data is based on population trends from 555 terrestrial vertebrate species, 323 freshwater vertebrate species, and 267 marine vertebrate species.  

Ecological overshoot can be eliminated by reducing humanity's Ecological Footprint or increasing global biocapacity. The Footprint can be reduced in three ways:

  • Lowering world population;  
  • Reducing per capita consumption; and  
  • Implementing more resource efficient technologies for providing goods and services.

Biocapacity can be increased by expanding global bioproductive area, improving resource management, and strengthening the health of ecosystems.
Choices for reducing Footprints vary with socio-economic conditions. People consuming at a level barely adequate for survival have little margin for reducing their Footprints. Other groups, such as more wealthy urban dwellers with higher levels of consumption have more options for reducing their Footprint, even while maintaining or even increasing their quality of life.
WWF recognizes that conservation is not possible without sustainable development. Lasting conservation depends on reducing human demand on the biosphere, and this reduction is impossible if it is not done in fair ways. Reduction efforts without fairness only create more conflicts. To succeed with conservation, WWF has become a leading advocate for sustainable development.
As exemplified in the Living Planet Report 2004, the methodology behind National Footprint Accounts is highly versatile and offers many analytical possibilities. For example, the accounts can be used to map time trends of a particular country, and the world as a whole. Data sets embedded in National Footprint Accounts are helping Footprint practitioners worldwide engage more stakeholders and more effectively manage ecological resources.
To download the report in English, click here. For hardcopies, please write us at
The report is also available in several languages on WWF national web sites.

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World Trends and Overshoot

Europe 2005

Ecological Creditors and Debtors

Summary Results for 150 countries:
hectares | acres

World maps

Our Methodology

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© 2003-2007 Global Footprint Network
Last Updated: 12/29/2005

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