Mapping project reveals very few untouched spaces remain. Nick Carne reports.

The polar regions contain most of the wilderness areas remaining in the world. JASMINE, WATSON ET AL

New research shows just how quickly the world’s last wilderness areas are disappearing.

An international team, led by Australia’s University of Queensland (UQ), has just mapped intact ocean ecosystems, complementing its 2016 project charting remaining terrestrial wilderness.

Together they provide the first global picture of how our impact has spread.

“A century ago, only 15% of the Earth’s surface was used by humans to grow crops and raise livestock,” says James Watson, from UQ’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences.

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

“It might be hard to believe, but between 1993 and 2009, an area of terrestrial wilderness larger than India – a staggering 3.3 million square kilometres – was lost to human settlement, farming, mining and other pressures.

“And in the ocean, the only regions that are free of industrial fishing, pollution and shipping are almost completely confined to the polar regions.”

In a commentary published in the journal Nature, Watson and colleagues argue that explicit international conservation targets are critically needed.

“Numerous studies are revealing that Earth’s remaining wilderness areas are increasingly important buffers against the effects of climate change and other human impacts,” they write.

“But, so far, the contribution of intact ecosystems has not been an explicit target in any international policy framework, such as the United Nations’ Strategic Plan for Biodiversity or the Paris climate agreement.

“This must change if we are to prevent Earth’s intact ecosystems from disappearing completely.”

To map Earth’s remaining terrestrial wilderness, the researchers used the best available data from 2009 on eight indicators of human pressures at a resolution of one square kilometre: built environments, crop lands, pasture lands, population density, night-time lights, railways, major roadways and navigable waterways.

For the more recent mapping of intact ocean ecosystems, they used 2013 data on fishing, industrial shipping and fertiliser run-off, among 16 other indicators.

In both cases they identified wilderness land or ocean areas as those that were free of human pressures, with a contiguous area of more than 10,000 square kilometers on land.

The maps exclude Antarctica because it is off limits to direct resource exploitation such as mining, and the indirect effects of human activities there are harder to measure. But the researchers say it is a crucial wilderness area that is urgently in need of protection.

“Antarctica’s isolation and extreme conditions have prevented the levels of degradation experienced elsewhere,” they write. “But invasive species, pollution, increased human activity and, above all, climate change are threatening its unique biodiversity and ability to regulate the global climate.”



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  1. We live a sad reality. All our efforts and that of so many out there…. to bring about a new consciousness and respect of our mother Earth, her precious resources, her beautiful wildlife, conservation of her ecosystems, through our leading examples, and setting up alternative ways of living sustainably & in respect of Nature’s laws, I find many of our efforts now at the end of 2018 very disheartening, with some exceptions of course.
    I watched last week to David Attenborough’s cry, plea to the business sector to reconsider their actions… fall on death ears, just from the minimal applause he received. Of course ! why would they applaud a Naturalist who goes so much against their personal agendas of economic profit, greed & power.? They are blind & death
    – I have 2 vr young grandchildren, beautiful pure souls, & constantly wonder …what are we leaving them ? Surely these greedy, ignorant, unconscious businessmen, bankers, politicians, et al… have children ? grandchildren too ? What world they leave them ?
    I am aware, like many others, that we live in cycles of destruction & rebirth repeated over thousands of years, its the cosmic and natural law. But what I cannot fathom is why humans are so heartless ? hellpent on hurting others, their lack of compassion, empathy and tolerance in the 21st century, is incomprehensible! You don’t need to go further than beyond certain neighbourhoods, or in spiritual groups who go on spiritual pilgrimages together only to end up forming ”groupie cliques’ , excluding others, with judgemental attitudes. Where they prop up their local spiritual mentor onto such a pedestal that he’s bound to fall. The era of Gurus is over. We are our own Gurus. We have been given all the spiritual tools, ancestral knowledge & now modern technology to move forward and up…. But accumulation of ancestral, shamanic, spiritual knowledge is valueless if its not coated in genuine Love = Tolerance, Empathy, Compassion, Respect & Unity.
    As I write this, John Lennon’s message in his song ”Imagine” comes on the radio. I ask:
    will we ever come together as One ? Another Beatle song comes to mind : ”All you need is Love, love….” – I am a child of the 60’s, they called us the Indigos. But that’s just another label if we don’t truly unite as Lightbearers during these dark times of destruction..We had great hopes, aspirations, in the 60’s for a better fairer gentler world. We were young & invincible! And now… we are the Elders. Any wiser ? aha !
    All the ”preparation” work has been done right up to Dec 21st 2012 : The Mayan 13th Baktun, .
    I realise I sound really pessimistic, and I make no apologies for it when one sees what surrounds us. Of course, there are exceptions : there are some lovely souls out there with lights and love in their hearts and minds, still working hard, still leading by example, but the odds right now are against us. We must do more, far more !! How ? by uniting more, but with no spiritual arrogance, please ! Nature and her wildlife are our guides and teachers. The goodwill E.T.’s are watching us, but they cannot interfere, respecting humanity’s free will, the 1st law. Then we have the Greys of course, but let’s not bring in that energy here now. Let’s focus on keeping that Light alight .
    Meditation and calm spaces around one & in communication with Nature are more urgent & vital than ever. Prayer is vital too. Done in sincere, loving groups devoid of ego-istc agendas, makes it that more powerful & effective.
    I also suggest people read The Revelations of St John.from time to time.
    Do you have contacts, affiliations in the U.K ? in Europe ? So we can strengthen & increase our circles of Light..

    • Lydia,
      If you are reading Prepare For Change you should know you are preaching to the Choir. You must also know the Cabal feels the same as you…..except their solution to the population – polution problem is: 50% population reduction. You don’t sound like that kind of solution is acceptable.
      Pray-meditate-and have faith…..this problem will be addressed….in the mean time Love One Another.


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