Environment

We've wiped out 10% of the Earth's wilderness in the last 25 years

We've wiped out 10% of the Ear...
Ecosystems like this Brazilian ranforest are feeling the effects of human development
Ecosystems like this Brazilian ranforest are feeling the effects of human development
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Ecosystems like this Brazilian ranforest are feeling the effects of human development
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Ecosystems like this Brazilian ranforest are feeling the effects of human development

We've been plodding around the place for 200,000 years, but in the last 25 old planet Earth has really borne the brunt of our ever-growing presence. This is the alarming picture painted by a new study taking stock of the planet's intact landscapes, revealing that since the early 1990's almost one tenth of the globe's wilderness areas have been lost to human development.

The study carried out by an international team of researchers revealed that Africa, with a 14 percent loss, and the Amazon, with a 30 percent loss, were the regions hit the hardest. The team says that large-scale land conversion, industrial activity and infrastructure development are to blame.

The shrinking Amazon basin in particular is a problem because, loss of biodiversity and important natural habitat aside, the region holds nearly 38 percent of the total carbon that is stored in wooded tropics across America, Africa and Asia and therefore has an important role to play in mitigating global emissions.

"The amount of wilderness loss in just two decades is staggering," says Dr Oscar Venter of the University of Northern British Colombia. "We need to recognize that wilderness areas, which we've foolishly considered to be de-facto protected due to their remoteness, is actually being dramatically lost around the world."

While the loss of species is well studied, the researchers were moved to investigate the state of the globe's wilderness areas by a perceived gap in our knowledge of how ecosystems as a whole were faring in the face of global development. They did this by mapping the world's wilderness areas, with "wilderness" defined as biologically and ecologically intact and free of significant human disturbance.

This map was then placed alongside another map produced using the same approach in the early 1990s, and it wasn't a pretty sight. The new map showed that 30.1 million km sq, around 20 percent of the world's land area, is covered by wilderness areas. Compared to the earlier map, this revealed around 3.3 million km sq had been sacrificed in the years since. Our approach to conservation, the team says, must change.

"Without proactive global interventions we could lose the last jewels in nature's crown," says Venter. "You cannot restore wilderness, once it is gone, and the ecological process that underpin these ecosystems are gone, and it never comes back to the state it was. The only option is to proactively protect what is left."

The research was published in the journal Current Biology.

Source: Wildlife Conservation Society

8 comments
VincentWolf
That's okay mother nature will have the last laugh.
exodous
How much of this takes in to account of tree farming? Yes, we clear cut forests but then allow them to grow back in a lot of areas. I'm not saying that the rain forest isn't shrinking but in a lot of these statistics forests in the US that have been logged in the past that have fully grown back are added in to raise the numbers. This is the problem with enviro science, both people that claim we're doomed and the ones that claim we doing fine find ways to exaggerate to bring people to their side.
christopher
The sky is blue, and there's nothing you can do to change that either.
ezeflyer
Why isn't human overpopulation ever mentioned as a primary cause of species extinctions, resource depletion and environmental pollution?
notfromthisplanet
Good story. I would like to see more science related stories on the health of the planet rather than the newest ICE Porsche or Ferrari. Electric cars I'll read about enthusiastically because they represent a solutuion, ICE cars I just scroll right by.
icykel
I agree with the sentiments expressed by notfromthisplanet . I really have no interest in the Super ICE motor cars so heavily represented in this e-mag. However there are occasionally vehicle/transport articles of interest. The Oregon developed 3 wheel e-car looks promising. ezeflyer , I too wondered why comments on global population were not mentioned. Recently while attending a local environmental gathering I brought up the topic of global population as being very much the 'elephant in the room' and was looked at with shock-horror. I gather the mention of such a thing was very un-P.C.
Robert in Vancouver
The fact is there are more square miles of flora on Earth now than ever before, because increased CO2 levels cause more and faster plant and tree growth. Environmental radicals don't want to hear about such things, but it is a verifiable fact.
amazed W1
Ezeflyer, it's non pc at the moment, that's why. The UN, no less, should get off its dozy high horse and admit that we have little time now to set about limiting the growth of the human population. It would have to censure certain economic, political and religious institutions that use the "we must have growth" line to justify their incapability of dealing with stasis or shrinking economies and power bases. Mother nature agrees with Malthus in this and extends the argument to a lot else besides food. Over population is at the roots of the problems in the Horn of Africa, the Mid East and will soon be felt in the UK if Brexit stops the excess population moving back into Europe when the impacts of an increasing population plus decreasing export opportunities begins to be felt.