10% of our wilderness has disappeared in the last 25 years. The bad news? We won't be able to get that back.
A new study undertaken by the School of Geography Planning and Environmental Management at the University of Queensland, Australia, has found that the world has about 10% of its wilderness only in the past 25 years.
James Watson, an associate professor with the study, stated that “without any policies to protect [most of] these areas, they are falling victim to widespread development. We probably only have one or two decades to turn this around”.
Central Africa and the Amazon saw the heaviest wilderness decline. Of the 1.27 million square miles of global wilderness lost since 1990, the Amazon accounted for about 1/3 of it. 14% of the wilderness lost was from Central Africa. Today, there are only 11.6 million square miles of wilderness left, which is about 20% of the Earth’s total land mass.Co-author of the study, Oscar Venter, states:
“The amount of wilderness loss in just two decades is staggering.”
Venter is an associate professor of ecosystem science and management at the University of Northern British Colombia. “We need to recognize that the wilderness areas, which we’ve foolishly considered to be de-facto protected due to their remoteness, is actually being dramatically lost around the world”.Venter is alluding to the fact that current conservation agreements wholly ignore certain wild areas because they assume that, due to the difficulty in reaching these areas, they are naturally protected. But this study is showing alarming losses to these areas due to their ecological and cultural value to housing, development, and industry.
Once the wilderness is gone, it cannot be restored because the ecological processes that underpin the ecosystems are destroyed. The only option is to “proactively protect what is left”, the researchers urge.
Mike Barett of WWF-UK, according to the BBC, said that the “Vast scale of loss in global wilderness is having grave impacts”. He says:
“As we seemingly enter the Anthropocene era, this report further signifies humanity’s immense impact and the effects that [it’s] having for wildlife and people alike.”
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