Wilderness, though remote by nature, is not immune to the ravages of humanity. In fact, according to a new study in the journal Current Biology, the world's wild places are undergoing "catastrophic decline" and could be facing elimination within decades if monumental policy shifts are not implemented.
"If we don't act soon, there will only be tiny remnants of wilderness around the planet, and this is a disaster for conservation, for climate change, and for some of the most vulnerable human communities on the planet," warned lead author Dr. James Watson, of the University of Queensland in Australia and the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York. "We have a duty to act for our children and their children."
Watson and his team mapped wilderness areas around the globe, which were defined as "biologically and ecologically intact landscapes free of any significant human disturbance," and then compared that to one produced by the same methods in the early 1990s.
The amount of wilderness loss in those two decades was "staggering," according to co-author Dr. Oscar Venter of the University of Northern British Colombia.
The study reported total losses of 3.3 million km² since the 1990s, particularly in South America, which experienced 29.6 percent loss, and Africa, with 14 percent. The world currently has a total of 30.1 million km² of remaining wilderness, which is primarily located in North America, North Asia, North Africa, and Australia.