Five Countries Hold Fate Of The World's Vanishing Wilderness

The Amazon rain forest from the air

Healthy ecosystems are crucial in their own right for biodiversity and mitigating climate change, but more importantly, said the researchers, they are home for hundreds of millions of indigenous people, who rely on the wilderness to survive and thrive.

Just five countries hold 70% of the world's remaining untouched wilderness areas and urgent global action is needed to protect them, according to new research.

The paper comes after the team of scientists produced data in 2016 that charted the planet's remaining terrestrial wilderness and in 2018 examined which parts of the world's oceans remained free from the damaging impacts of human activity.

"Today, more than 77 per cent of land - excluding Antarctica - and 87 per cent of the ocean has been modified by the direct effects of human activities".

However, the polar regions remain the most not affected by shipping, pollution and fishing regions of the ocean.

"By our measure, 20 countries contain 94% of the world's remaining wilderness (excluding the high seas and Antarctica)".

Dr Allen said: "Some wilderness areas are protected under national legislation, but in most nations, these areas are not formally defined, mapped or protected".

In the seas, wilderness areas are the last regions that still contain viable populations of top predators, such as tuna, marlins and sharks.

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At the 14 meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), held from November 17-29, signatory governments, intergovernmental organizations such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), international non-governmental organizations, and the scientific community will meet to work towards a strategic plan for the protection of biodiversity after 2020. This biodiversity makes up several ecosystems, and we humans are linked to nearly every one of them in one way or the other.

Venter said those countries have a role to play in preserving wilderness, including the boreal forest of Canada, which could be impacted by climate change according to the Prairie Climate Centre at the University of Winnipeg.

Scientists say the last wilderness areas left on the planet are rapidly disappearing, with explicit worldwide conservation targets "critically needed".

"We need the immediate establishment of bold wilderness targets - specifically those aimed at conserving biodiversity, avoiding unsafe climate change and achieving sustainable development", Allan noted.

Our maps show how little wilderness is left, and how much has been lost in the past few decades. Researchers urges authorities to better conserve these wilderness areas.

Prof Watson said: "One obvious intervention these nations can prioritise is establishing protected areas in ways that would slow the impacts of industrial activity on the larger landscape or seascape".

Wilderness areas also provide a vital refuge for species whose environment has suffered as a result of human settlement, often maintaining a near-natural mix and abundance of animals. "We must grasp these opportunities to secure the wilderness before it disappears forever". Particularly, worldwide accountability is necessary, he argues.

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