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World's Biggest Market Crashes and You Didn't Even Know It

An infant mountain gorilla from Volcanoes National Park in northwest Rwanda. Photographer: David Yarrow/Getty Images
An infant mountain gorilla from Volcanoes National Park in northwest Rwanda. Photographer: David Yarrow/Getty Images

If animals were stocks, the market would be crashing.

The chart below shows the performance of an index that tracks global animal populations over time, much like the S&P 500 tracks shares of the biggest U.S. companies. The Global Living Planet Index, updated today by the World Wildlife Foundation, tracks representative populations of 3,038 species of reptiles, birds, mammals, amphibians and fish.

To say the index of animals is underperforming humans is an understatement. More than half of the world's vertebrates have disappeared between 1970 and 2010. (In the same period, the human population nearly doubled.) The chart starts at 1, which represents the planet's level of vertebrate life as of 1970.