Humans have destroyed ten per cent of the Earth’s wilderness since 1992, according to new research.
The study, authored by researchers from Australia’s University of Queensland and published in Cell, revealed that the earth has lost nearly 1.3 million square miles of wilderness (defined as areas that are largely free of human development) in less than 30 years, with most of this loss occurring in South America.
This leaves approximately 11.6 million square miles of wilderness left on Earth (accounting for about 23 percent of Earth’s land area), which will also have mostly have disappeared by 2050.
“The world’s large intact landscapes are incredibly important for biodiversity,” said James Watson, the director of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Science and Research Initiative and the lead author of the study. “Not only are they important for wildlife, they’re incredibly important for people. A lot of indigenous communities around the world rely on large, intact landscapes to maintain their ways of life.”
The Amazon has lost 30 per cent of its wilderness in the last two decades, which was of particular concern to the study’s authors.
However, three of the Earth’s 14 major ecological communities are now no longer have any remaining wilderness areas that are considered “globally significant”, and five of Earth’s biomes have less than ten per cent wilderness area remaining.
“We argue that immediate action to protect the world’s remaining wilderness areas on a large scale is now necessary,” the researchers write. “The continued loss of wilderness areas is a globally significant problem with largely irreversible outcomes for both humans and nature: if these trends continue, there could be no globally significant wilderness areas left in less than a century.”