Just Five Countries Contain 70% Of World’s Last Wilderness, Study Finds

Posted: Nov 1 2018, 12:15pm CDT | by , Updated: Nov 1 2018, 12:17pm CDT, in Latest Science News

 

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Just Five Countries Contain 70% of World’s Last Wilderness, Study Finds
Torres Del Paine, Chile. Credit: Gregoire Dubois

World's last wilderness areas are at high risk of disappearing.

Researchers warn that world’s last wilderness is rapidly disappearing. A century ago, only 15% of the Earth’s surface was used by humans. Today, human activities have modified more than 77 percent of land and 87 percent of the ocean, meaning only a small fraction of global area can still be classified as wilderness.

“Between 1993 and 2009, an area of terrestrial wilderness larger than India – a staggering 3.3 million square kilometers – was lost to human settlement, farming, mining and other pressures. In the ocean, areas that are free of industrial fishing, pollution and shipping are almost completely confined to the polar regions.” Authors wrote in a study.

In 2016, an international team of researchers mapped terrestrial wilderness across the globe. In the latest effort, they looked at the impact of human activities on ocean ecosystems. Together, these maps provided the first full global picture of how little wilderness remains.

“By our measure, 20 countries contain 94% of the world’s remaining wilderness (excluding the high seas and Antarctica). More than 70% is in just five countries – Russia, Canada, Australia, the United States and Brazil.” Study said.

Wilderness plays a key role in delaying or even preventing climate change. For example the boreal forest, which is the most intact ecosystem on the planet, stores one-third of the world’s carbon dioxide. Despite their importance, wilderness areas are being destroyed at an alarming rate. Researchers say that world's remaining wilderness could only be protected if international policies recognize their value and organizations take serious actions to address the numerous threats they face.

Under UNESCO World Heritage Convention, some wilderness areas are protected as Natural World Heritage Sites. But almost two-thirds of marine wilderness lies in international waters, beyond the direct control of nations. Researchers urges authorities to better conserve these wilderness areas.

“Some wilderness areas are protected under national legislation, but in most nations, these areas are not formally defined, mapped or protected. There is nothing to hold nations, industry, society or communities to account for long-term conservation,” said James R. Allan from University of Queensland. “We need the immediate establishment of bold wilderness targets – specifically those aimed at conserving biodiversity, avoiding dangerous climate change and achieving sustainable development.”

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.

 

 

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