Academic journal article Science Scope

The World's Wilderness Areas Are Declining

Academic journal article Science Scope

The World's Wilderness Areas Are Declining

Article excerpt

New research shows that there have been catastrophic declines in wilderness areas around the world over the last 20 years. Since the 1990s, there has been a loss of a tenth of global wilderness, an area twice the size of Alaska and half the size of the Amazon. The Amazon and Central Africa have been hit the hardest.

The findings underscore an immediate need for international policies to recognize the value of wilderness areas and to address the unprecedented threats they face, the researchers say.

"Globally important wilderness areas... are completely ignored in environmental policy," says Dr. James Watson, an author of the study. "Without any policies to protect these areas, they are falling victim to widespread development. We probably have one to two decades to turn this around."

Watson says much policy attention has been paid to the loss of species but comparatively little was known about larger-scale losses of entire ecosystems, especially wilderness areas. To fill that gap, the researchers mapped wilderness areas around the globe, with wilderness being defined as biologically and ecologically intact landscapes free of any significant human disturbance. The researchers then compared their current map of wilderness to one produced by the same methods in the early 1990s. …

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