Oct. 30 (UPI) -- The population of the world's vertebrates -- including mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians -- has dropped 60 percent over the past 40 years and the rate of extinction is 100 to 1,000 times higher because of "human pressure," according to a new study.
The World Wildlife Fund, or WWF, released the findings of its Living Planet Index, which tracks the state of global biodiversity by identifying the population of thousands of vertebrate species around the globe.
The study stated the biggest losses happened in the tropics of South and Central America where there has been an 89 percent decline in vertebrates from 1970. Freshwater species have also suffered greatly, declining 83 percent over the same period.
"The current rate of species extinction is 100 to 1,000 times higher than the background rate, the standard rate of extinction in Earth's history before human pressure became a prominent factor," the report said in its executive summary.
"Biodiversity has been described as the 'infrastructure' that supports all life on Earth. It is, simply, a prerequisite for our modern, prosperous human society to exist and to continue to thrive," the report continued.
The study tracked global wildlife trends across 16,704 populations of 4,005 vertebrate species. It said humans are "pushing the planet to the brink" and taking "an unprecedented toll on wildlife."
"When you lose biodiversity and world becomes biologically and aesthetically a poorer place," Keith Somerville, a professor in human-wildlife conflict at Kent University, told NBC News.
The report urged that humans take immediate action to stop irreversible changes to the planet, including boosts in green energy resources along with environmentally friendly food production.
"... Science has never been clearer about the consequences of our impact," Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International said his statement that accompanied the report. "There has never been more awareness - nor such rapidly increasing investment in finding solutions.
"Today, we have the knowledge and means to redefine our relationship with the planet. There is no excuse for inaction. We can no longer ignore the warning signs; doing so would be at our own peril. What we need now is the will to act - and act quickly," he added.