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Bio­di­ver­sity


A Col­lec­tion of News by Moos


201624Sep08:18

Humans have destroyed a tenth of Earth’s wilder­ness since the 1990s

Infor­ma­tion
pub­lished 24 Sep­tem­ber 2016 | mod­i­fied 24 Sep­tem­ber 2016
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wilderness pictureResearchers report­ing in the jour­nal Cur­rent Biol­ogy show cat­a­strophic declines in wilder­ness areas around the world over the last 20 years. They demon­strate alarm­ing losses com­pris­ing a tenth of global wilder­ness since the 1990s – an area twice the size of Alaska and half the size of the Ama­zon. The Ama­zon and Cen­tral Africa have been hard­est hit.

The find­ings under­score an imme­di­ate need for inter­na­tional poli­cies to recog­nise the value of wilder­ness areas and to address the unprece­dented threats they face, the researchers say. The find­ings have been pub­lished on 8 September.

Glob­ally impor­tant wilder­ness areas – despite being strong­holds for endan­gered bio­di­ver­sity, for buffer­ing and reg­u­lat­ing local cli­mates, and for sup­port­ing many of the world’s most polit­i­cally and eco­nom­i­cally mar­gin­alised com­mu­ni­ties – are com­pletely ignored in envi­ron­men­tal pol­icy,” says James Wat­son of the Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion Soci­ety (WCS) in New York. “With­out any poli­cies to pro­tect these areas, they are falling vic­tim to wide­spread devel­op­ment. Inter­na­tional pol­icy mech­a­nisms must recog­nise the actions needed to main­tain wilder­ness areas before it is too late. We prob­a­bly have one to two decades to turn this around.”

If we don’t act soon, there will only be tiny rem­nants of wilder­ness around the planet, and this is a dis­as­ter for con­ser­va­tion, for cli­mate change, and for some of the most vul­ner­a­ble human com­mu­ni­ties on the planet. We have a duty to act for our chil­dren and their children.
Dr James Wat­son, lead author, Uni­ver­sity of Queens­land in Aus­tralia, and the Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion Soci­ety in New York »

Wat­son says much pol­icy atten­tion has been paid to the loss of species, but com­par­a­tively lit­tle was known about larger-​scale losses of entire ecosys­tems, espe­cially wilder­ness areas which tend to be rel­a­tively under­stud­ied. To fill that gap, the researchers mapped wilder­ness areas around the globe, with ‘wilder­ness’ being defined as bio­log­i­cally and eco­log­i­cally intact land­scapes free of any sig­nif­i­cant human dis­tur­bance. The researchers then com­pared their cur­rent map of wilder­ness to one pro­duced by the same meth­ods in the early 1990s.

Infographic world wilderness lostThis info­graphic shows cat­a­strophic wilder­ness loss since the 1990s.
Credit: Kendall Jones and James Allan.

This com­par­i­son showed that a total of 30.1 mil­lion km2 (around 20 per­cent of the world’s land area) now remains as wilder­ness, with the major­ity being located in North Amer­ica, North Asia, North Africa, and the Aus­tralian con­ti­nent. How­ever, com­par­isons between the two maps show that an esti­mated 3.3 mil­lion km2 (almost 10 per­cent) of wilder­ness area has been lost in the inter­ven­ing years. Those losses have occurred pri­mar­ily in South Amer­ica, which has expe­ri­enced a 30 per­cent decline in wilder­ness, and Africa, which has expe­ri­enced a 14 per­cent loss.

The amount of wilder­ness loss in just two decades is stag­ger­ing” Dr Oscar Ven­ter of the Uni­ver­sity of North­ern British Colom­bia. “We need to recog­nise 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. With­out proac­tive global inter­ven­tions we could lose the last jew­els in nature’s crown. 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”.

Wat­son says that the United Nations and oth­ers have ignored glob­ally sig­nif­i­cant wilder­ness areas in key mul­ti­lat­eral envi­ron­men­tal agree­ments and this must change.

If we don’t act soon, there will only be tiny rem­nants of wilder­ness around the planet, and this is a dis­as­ter for con­ser­va­tion, for cli­mate change, and for some of the most vul­ner­a­ble human com­mu­ni­ties on the planet,” Wat­son says. “We have a duty to act for our chil­dren and their children.”

(Source: WCS press release, 08.09.2016)


UN Biodiversity decade

Goal: 7000 tigers in the wild

Tiger range countries map

Tiger map” (CC BY 2.5) by Sander­son et al., 2006.

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