A stunning view of unspoiled Torres Del Paine, Chile. The world’s last wilderness areas are rapidly disappearing, according to a new report.(Photo: Gregoire Dubois)The world’s last remaining wilderness areas are rapidly disappearing, a report warns.”A century ago, only 15 percent of the Earth’s surface was used by humans to grow crops and raise livestock,” lead author James Watson said. “Today, more than 77 percent of land – excluding Antarctica – has been modified by human activities,” said Watson, a scientist at the University of Queensland in Australia. The study, which was was published Wednesday in the British journal Nature. also said that about “87 percent of the ocean has been modified by the direct effects of human activities.”Incredibly, from 1993 to 2009, an area of terrestrial wilderness almost five times as big as the state of Texas – about 1.2 million square miles – was lost to human settlement, farming, mining and other pressures, the report noted.In a new map (below) that accompanies the study, researchers show that the vast bulk of the remaining wilderness areas – about 70 percent – are in five of the world’s biggest nations: Russia, Canada, Australia, Brazil and the United States. “Wilderness will only be secured globally if these nations take a leadership role,” study co-author John Robinson of the Wildlife Conservation Society said. “Right now, across the board, this type of leadership is missing. Already we have lost so much. We must grasp these opportunities to secure the wilderness before it disappears forever.”For this study, the authors define wilderness areas as those places that do not have industrial-level activity within them and areas without direct use by people. It’s not just that we need more pretty places to look at, either.”Wilderness areas provide important refuges for species that are declining in landscapes dominated by people,” the report said. “In the seas, they are the last regions that still contain viable populations of top predators, such as tuna, marlins and sharks.”These wild areas also act as natural buffers against the effects of climate change and other human impacts.As for what to do, the study authors said the world’s remaining wilderness areas could only be protected if their importance was recognized in international policy. They recommend that urgent protection of Earth’s wilderness regions should be discussed at two upcoming United Nations conferences, one on biodiversity and one on climate change.“These results are nothing short of a horror story for the planet’s last wild places,” Watson said. “The loss of wilderness must be treated in the same way we treat extinction. There is no reversing once the first cut enters. The decision is forever.”77 percent of land (excluding Antarctica) and 87 percent of the ocean has been modified by the direct effects of human activities. (Photo: Nature)Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2018/10/31/wilderness-areas-vanishing-worldwide-report-says/1832558002/
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