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Unspoiled lands disappearing from face of the Earth at an alarming pace, finds Study

The wilderness losses in the past two decades make up a combined area about half the size of South America's vast Amazon region

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FILE - An overview of the Cascade Range inside the North Cascades National Park near Marblemount, Wash., near the Canadian border. A quarter of the planet's land surface remains wilderness, conservationist James Watson says. Source: VOA
  • Only 11.6 million square miles remain worldwide as biologically and ecologically intact regions without notable human disturbance
  • The wilderness losses in the past two decades make up a combined area about half the size of South America’s vast Amazon region
  • “We are running out of time and we are running out of space.” says conservationist James Watson 

Unspoiled lands are disappearing from the face of the Earth at an alarming pace, with about 10 percent of wilderness regions — an area double the size of Alaska — lost in the past two decades amid unrelenting human development, researchers said Thursday.

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South America, which lost 30 percent of its wilderness during that period, and Africa, which lost 14 percent, were the continents hardest hit, they said. The main driver of the global losses was destruction of wilderness for agriculture, logging and mining.

The researchers’ study, published in the journal Current Biology, was the latest to document the impact of human activities on a global scale, affecting Earth’s climate, landscape, oceans, natural resources and wildlife.

The researchers mapped the world’s wilderness areas, excluding Antarctica, and compared the results with a 1993 map that used the same methods.

They found that 11.6 million square miles (30.1 million square kilometers) remain worldwide as wilderness, defined as biologically and ecologically intact regions without notable human disturbance. Since the 1993 estimation, 1.3 million square miles (3.3 million square kilometers) of wilderness disappeared, they determined.

Amazon Manaus Forest. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Amazon Manaus Forest. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

‘Shocking implications’

“This is incredibly sad because we can’t offset or restore these places. Once they are gone, they are gone, and this has shocking implications for biodiversity, for climate change and for the most imperiled biodiversity on the planet,” said conservationist James Watson of the University of Queensland in Australia and the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York.

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The wilderness losses in the past two decades make up a combined area about half the size of South America’s vast Amazon region.

Watson, who led the study, said about a quarter of the planet’s land surface remains wilderness, particularly in central Africa, the Amazon region, northern Australia, the United States, Canada and Russia. The losses in the past two decades were most acute in the Amazon region and central Africa.

“We need to focus on quality of habitat and keeping some places on Earth that are largely untouched by us,” Watson said. “We are running out of time and we are running out of space.” (VOA)

Next Story

Ice Loss in Antarctica and Greenland Increasing at an Alarming Rate: Scientists

Greenland, Antarctica ice loss accelerating

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Ice loss
Earth's great ice sheets, Greenland and Antarctica, were now losing mass six times faster than they were in the 1990s due to warming conditions. Pixabay

Earth’s great ice sheets, Greenland and Antarctica, were now losing mass six times faster than they were in the 1990s due to warming conditions, the media reported on Thursday citing scientists as saying.

A comprehensive review of satellite data acquired at both poles was unequivocal in its assessment of accelerating trends, the BBC quoted the scientists as saying.

Between them, Greenland and Antarctica lost 6.4 trillion tonnes of ice in the period from 1992 to 2017.

Ice loss
The combined rate of ice loss for Greenland and Antarctica was running at about 81 billion tonnes per year in the 1990s. Pixabay

This was sufficient to push up global sea-levels up by 17.8 mm, the scientists added. “That’s not a good news story,” said Professor Andrew Shepherd from the University of Leeds.

“Today, the ice sheets contribute about a third of all sea-level rise, whereas in the 1990s, their contribution was actually pretty small at about 5 per cent. This has important implications for the future, for coastal flooding and erosion,” he told BBC News.

The researcher co-leads a project called the Ice Sheet Mass Balance Intercomparison Exercise, or Imbie, which is a team of experts who have reviewed polar measurements acquired by observational spacecraft over nearly three decades.

The Imbie team’s studies have revealed that ice losses from Antarctica and Greenland were actually heading to much more pessimistic outcomes, and will likely add another 17 cm to those end-of-century forecasts.

“If that holds true it would put 400 million people at risk of annual coastal flooding by 2100,” Professor Shepherd told the BBC.

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The combined rate of loss for Greenland and Antarctica was running at about 81 billion tonnes per year in the 1990s.

By the 2010s, it had climbed to 475 billion tonnes per year. (IANS)