We have a problem, and scientists are panicking. As reported by CBS and other news outlets, a study has found that humanity has destroyed about 10 percent of the planet’s wilderness since 1992.
The study published online via the journal Current Biology revealed that in the 25-year period, a total land area about half the size of the Amazon, and twice the size of the state of Alaska, has been depleted.
In a press release, the research team said they want their study to act as a wake-up call, showing the public the truth that many of Earth’s rich habitats, like the Amazon, have been lost in a relatively short amount of time. They’re also looking for international policies that will recognize the importance of wilderness and protect them from further developments of humans.
The dwindling wilderness is due, in part to humanity’s activities such as logging, agriculture, mining, and of course, oil and gas exploration.
The research team from Australia’s University of Queensland said the Earth has lost nearly 1.3 million square miles of wilderness. They’ve defined wilderness as an area with no human development.
Dr. James Watson of the University of Queensland in Australia said globally important wilderness areas are completely ignored in environmental policy, and much has been paid to the loss of species. Without any policies to protect them, they are “falling victim to widespread development,” he added.
Dr. Watson also revealed that humanity has one to two decades to turn things around.
To date, the world has a total of 30.1 million km2, or around 20 percent of the world’s land area, that remain as wilderness, with the majority being located in countries in North America, North Asia, Australia and North Africa. The reported losses have occurred primarily in South America which has experienced a staggering 30 percent decline in wilderness. For comparison, Africa has seen a 14 percent loss.
Dr. Oscar Venter of the University of Northern British Colombia said the amount of wilderness loss in more than two decades is “staggering.” He also warned that humans cannot restore wilderness. Once it is gone, it never comes back to the state it was. The only option available now, he said, is to protect what is left.
The team’s report also criticized the United Nations and others that have ignored the problem. Dr. Watson said that if humans don’t act soon, there will only be “tiny remnants of wilderness around the planet,” and that is a disaster for conservation, and for climate change. “We have a duty to act for our children and their children,” he added.
The research is titled ‘Catastrophic Declines in Wilderness Areas Undermine Global Environment Targets,’ and it is now accessible online via the Current Biology journal website, Cell.com.