Ten percent of wilderness disappeared in less than twenty years

In the past two decades, a tenth of the wilderness on earth disappeared. At the current pace, she will be completely gone in fifty years.

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Scientists have for the first time, the destruction of pristine areas on the world map, and that exercise seems sobering: since the nineties, is 2 million square kilometres of wilderness is gone, good for 10 percent. The greatest loss is on account of the Amazon by 30 per cent and Central Africa, with 14 percent, according to the study, which was released this week in Current Biology.


“This is the first assessment of changes over that period, and it was shocking to determine that the surface area of Alaska has been destroyed in just twenty years,” said lead author James Watson of the University of Queensland in Australia. “In two decades, 10 percent of all wilderness losses is simply incredible: if the current trend continues, there will be about fifty years no wilderness more about it.”

The destruction has multiple causes. “There is on the one hand, the rapid urbanization in many places, in addition to large-scale logging operations in the Amazon basin and Central Africa, and palm oil plantations in Asia,” says Watson.

Also the climate change, forest fires, mining, and search for oil are harmful.

Better planning

Happy remains there is still one or two decades to turn the tide, say the researchers. They give a list of recommendations, such as rapid intervention in pristine areas where projects are planned, and the development of “mega-beschermingscorridors” between protected areas. There would also possibly be paid for the ecosystem services that a particular area provides, as a source of drinking water, buffer against extreme weather or as a CO2 storage container.

About 23 percent of the land area is still wilderness. Four-fifths of which is in contiguous areas greater than 16,000 square kilometres which is considered to be a “globally significant wildblok”.

“But in the last twenty years are those areas heavily eroded”, write the scientists, with a loss to 4.4 million square kilometres. Of the 350 blocks in the early nineties were, there are already 37 no longer significant, and 74 percent had to deal with forms of erosion.


International efforts to the areas to protect the steady destruction not keep up. The last 20 years was 4.1 million square kilometers protected, but at the same time, 5 million square kilometers lost.

With the areas also disappears the biodiversity and climate change cranked up. In the areas that currently remain, are enormous quantities of CO2 stored. These areas protect “as such makes a significant contribution to the stabilisation of atmospheric CO2 concentrations”, write the authors.

Kierán Suckling, director of the Center for Biological Diversity, called the study “shocking and heartbreaking – and that from someone who spent thirty years working in nature conservation, but has never realised how much there is lost.”

“I suspect that the areas that we have in the next ten or twenty years not be able to protect, never protected going to be,” he says. “So this is the perfect challenge for our generation. We must now choose, to protect or to make them disappear.”

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