Published: Fri, November 02, 2018
Science | By Michele Flores

World's Last Wilderness May Vanish

World's Last Wilderness May Vanish

Professor James Watson, of the University of Queensland, said the two studies provided the first full global picture of how little wilderness remains, and he was "alarmed" by the results.

Their mapping methods for terrestrial wilderness included data such as population density, night-time lights and major roadways and indicators such as fishing, fertilizer run-off and industrial shipping to determine ocean ecosystems. "Already we have lost so much".

More than 70 percent of Earth's last untouched wilderness lies in the territories of just five countries, scientists said on Wednesday - mostly nations that alarm environmentalists with their lukewarm response to climate change.

According to the study, "87 percent of the ocean has been modified by the direct effects of human activities".

Various analyses reveal that wilderness areas provide increasingly important refuges for species that are declining in landscapes dominated by people.

At the 14 meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), held from November 17-29, signatory governments, intergovernmental organizations such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), international non-governmental organizations, and the scientific community will meet to work towards a strategic plan for the protection of biodiversity after 2020.

"A few countries own a lot of this untouched land and they have a massive responsibility to keep the last of the wild". In the period from 1993 to 2009, human settlements, agricultural lands, and the industry has taken 3.3 million square kilometers of undeveloped areas. (3,861 sq. mi.). The survey excludes Antarctica and the open seas, but the authors note that marine regions "free of industrial fishing, pollution and shipping are nearly completely confined to the polar regions".

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Astonishingly, 94 percent of that space is confined to 20 countries, while the top five (Russia, Canada, Australia, the USA, and Brazil - in that order) possess 70 percent of the world's remaining wilderness.

"We need the immediate establishment of bold wilderness targets - specifically those aimed at conserving biodiversity, avoiding risky climate change and achieving sustainable development", Allan noted.

Conservationists are calling for a mandated target for wilderness conservation that will preserve the planet's vulnerable ecosystems. "We must grasp these opportunities to secure the wilderness before it disappears forever". The past decade has witnessed rapid depletion of such wilderness due to climate change and deforestation, a trend that must be reversed to ensure humanity's survival as a species.

"One take on the list is that alarm bells go off", said Watson.

The loss of wilderness is not just a biodiversity conservation and climate issue. Not only is it the most intact ecosystem on the entire planet, the authors say, but it captures and stores around a third of the Earth's terrestrial carbon. Researchers urges authorities to better conserve these wilderness areas.

"It requires nations to legislate and not let industry in". They can also establish protected areas to slow the spread of industrial activity into wilderness.

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