10% of the Earth's wilderness destroyed

In the last 25 years we've destroyed 10% of the Earth's wilderness. 132,000 square kilometers per year have been lost since 1990, recent study says.

In the last 25 years we've destroyed 10% of the Earth's wilderness

132,000 square kilometers per year have been lost since 1990, recent study says.

According to a recent study, "Catastrophic Declines in Wilderness Areas Undermine Global Environment Targets," published in Current Biology, in the last 25 years humans have destroyed 10% of the Earth's wilderness.

They defined wilderness to be areas that are "biologically and ecologically largely intact landscapes that are mostly free of human disturbance." Today, wilderness areas amount to only 23% of the Earth's total land mass.  

Researchers used data from maps dating back to the early 90's to found out 132,000 square kilometers of wilderness pear year are lost. They  add up to 3.3 million square km of destroyed areas due to human activity such as mining, logging, and negligent infrastructure projects.

The amount of wilderness loss in just two decades is staggering and very saddening,” said one of the authors, James Watson, from the University of Queensland in Australia and the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York.

The most affected areas are the Amazon, nearly losing a third of its wilderness areas, followed by Central Africa, losing 14%. Researchers are alarmed because the rate at which wilderness is being destroyed is faster than the rate at which protected areas are established.

“You cannot restore wilderness. Once it is gone, the ecological processes 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,” said Watson.

Fortunately the majority of the wilderness left is located in North America, Australia, North Africa, and North Asia and 82.3% of it is still composed of vast uninterrupted areas of at least 10,000 square kilometers. If this wasn't the case, and the areas were fragmented, their care would be harder and accurate readings on the ecological communities present would be difficult.

There are two conservation examples the team believes will make a difference in the future. They mention Brazil's Amazon Region Protected Areas Program (ARPA), which aims to establish new protected areas and sustainable natural resources management reserves in Brazil, Peru and Colombia.

Also, the Canadian Boreal Forest Conservation Framework has been singled out as one of the best conservation programs in the world. Its goal is to protect at least 50% of the Boreal in a network of large interconnected areas and sustainable communities.

Nonetheless, the team believes the positive measures are still too few. If current trends continue there could be no significant wilderness areas left in less than a century.

"If we don't act soon, it will be all gone, and this is a disaster for conservation, for climate change, and for some of the most vulnerable human communities on the planet," said Watson. "We have a duty to act for our children and their children."

LatinAmerican Post | Maria Andrea Marquez

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