Earth's wilderness is vanishing, only a few nations can save it

“There is nothing to hold nations industry society or communities to account for long-term conservation

"A few countries own a lot of this untouched land and they have a massive responsibility to keep the last of the wild". "The loss of wilderness must be treated in the same way we treat extinction", said the paper's lead author James Watson, of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the University of Queensland.

To reach their conclusion, the researchers constructed a comprehensive global map of Earth's remaining terrestrial and ocean wilderness areas.

And we can not forget Antarctica, arguably Earth's greatest remaining wilderness and one of the last places on the planet where vast regions have never experienced a human footfall.

Overall, 77% of land - excluding Antarctica - and 87% of oceans had been modified by human intervention.

"And in the ocean, the only regions that are free of industrial fishing, pollution and shipping are nearly completely confined to the polar regions", he added. The results reveal that 70% of such untouched wilderness is located in just five countries around the world - Russia, Canada, Brazil, United States, and Australia.

Wilderness, the study's authors said, is defined as an area not subject to direct human use.

These disturbing findings are particularly troubling as numerous recent studies reveal that Earth's remaining wilderness areas are increasingly important buffers against the effects of climate change and other human impacts. "We must grasp these opportunities to secure the wilderness before it disappears forever".

"This is a very important time to raise awareness about the value of these systems, about how imperilled they are and to help decision-making that balances human needs and environmental needs and think strategically about where we develop and how we develop", Venter said.

The authors describe wilderness areas as those places that do not have industrial level activity within them according to the marine and terrestrial human footprint.

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

Our maps show how little wilderness is left, and how much has been lost in the past few decades.

It comes ahead of the conference of parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Egypt in November where signatory nations are working towards a plan for the protection of biodiversity beyond 2020.

As well as being havens for biodiversity, wildernesses such as the boreal forest in northern Canada - which acts as a carbon sink and which is protected by federal law - form mankind's frontline protection against runaway climate change.

A global target of retaining 100% of all remaining wilderness is achievable, although it would require stopping industrial activities like mining, logging, and fishing from expanding to new places.

John Robertson, the executive vice president for global conservation at WCS said wilderness would only be secured globally "if these nations take a leadership role". They can also establish protected areas to slow the spread of industrial activity into wilderness.

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