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Report says the world’s wilderness is vanishing

From WN

New research from scientists at the University of Queensland and the Wildlife Conservation Society is calling for urgent international action after their report released on Wednesday revealed just five nations were responsible for 70% of the world’s remaining, untouched wilderness, according to The Guardian.

The report included a new global map which described which countries are responsible for nature that is largely devoid of heavy industrial activity and was published in the journal Nature.

The report said Australia, the United States, Brazil, Russia, and Canada are the five nations which control the majority of the world’s remaining wilderness.

The data used in the report excluded the wilderness in Antarctica and on the high seas since those are not contained within national borders.

The report was published before the Convention on Biological Diversity is scheduled to occur this November in Egypt, where signatory nations are collaborating to formulate a plan which would protect biodiversity beyond 2020.

Environmentalists have been calling for a new mandated target for wilderness conservation in that framework in order to help protect some of Earths most vulnerable ecosystems, including the Amazon rainforest.

The report also follows a team of scientists who said in 2016 more than 77% of the land on Earth, excluding Antarctica, and in 2018 with a new study which found 87% of oceans had been modified by human behavior.

“Two years ago we did the first analysis of wilderness on land,” lead author James Watson said. “In this new analysis, we’ve created a global map and intersected it with national borders to ask: who is responsible?”

“A century ago, only 15 percent of the Earth’s surface was used by humans to grow crops and raise livestock,” he said. “Today, more than 77 percent of land—excluding Antarctica—and 87 percent of the ocean has been modified by the direct effects of human activities.”

He said between 1993 and 2009, an area of wilderness larger than India was lost to human settlement, mining, farming, and other pressures.

Watson also warned for the ocean, “the only regions that are free of industrial fishing, pollution, and shipping are almost completely confined to the polar regions.”

The researchers said the existing wilderness could only be protected “if it is recognized within international policy frameworks.”

The report called on international bodies to protect 100% of the remaining wilderness on the planet.

“It’s achievable to have a target of 100%,” Watson said. “All nations need to do is stop industry from going into those places.”

Watson called on the five countries with the majority of the wilderness to provide an example of leadership by using legislation or offering businesses incentives for working on projects that do not erode nature.

John Robinson, the executive vice-president for global conservation at WCS, said the issue could only be confronted “if these nations take a leadership role.”

“Already we have lost so much. We must grasp these opportunities to secure the wilderness before it disappears forever,” he said.

University of Queensland Postdoctoral Research Fellow James R. Allan said the remaining wilderness could only be protected through international policy, since “in most nations, these areas are not formally defined, mapped or protected.”

“There is nothing to hold nations, industry, society or communities to account for long-term conservation. We need the immediate establishment of bold wilderness targets—specifically those aimed at conserving biodiversity, avoiding dangerous climate change and achieving sustainable development.”, Maureen Foody

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