Just 23 percent of the world’s landmass can now be considered wilderness, with the rest – excluding Antarctica – lost to the direct effects of human activities, scientists write in a new paper in Nature.
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.
Many wildernesses are also home to millions of indigenous people who rely on them for maintaining their long bio-cultural connections to land and sea. Their loss is eroding many cultures around the world.
The authors note two upcoming gatherings of key decision makers will be crucial to stopping current rate of loss—the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in late November and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Katowice Climate Change Conference from Dec. 2-14.