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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
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  • 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)

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Wetlands Disappearing Faster Than Forests Due to Climate Change: Report

Authors of the report say biodiversity also is in a state of crisis. They say more than 25 percent of all wetlands plants and animals are at risk of extinction.

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climate, global warming, celsisu
A fisherman stands on his boat as he fishes at the Tisma lagoon wetland park, also designated as Ramsar Site 1141 in the Convention on Wetlands, in Tisma, Nicaragua. VOA

A new report warns that wetlands are disappearing three times faster than the world’s forests, with serious consequences for all life on earth due to climate change.

The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands is a global treaty ratified in 1971 by 170 countries to protect wetlands, which are ecosystems inundated by water, such as swamps, bogs and floodplains.

Unfortunately, the goal of this treaty is under threat. Ramsar Convention officials report about 35 percent of the world’s wetlands have been lost between 1970 and 2015.

Climate
Wetlands. Wikimedia Commons

State of crisis

Unless this situation is urgently reversed, Ramsar Convention Secretary-General Martha Roja Urrego warns the world will be in a state of crisis because wetlands are critical for all aspects of life.

“All the water that we use for consumption, irrigation and for hydro-electricity comes directly or indirectly from wetlands,” Urrego said. “Secondly, wetlands also have a main function in filtering waste and pollutants, so they act as the kidneys of the world. They filter the waste.”

Urrego says wetlands also are essential in regulating the global climate as peatlands store twice as much carbon as the world’s forests.

Amazon, Climate
This Sept. 15, 2009 file photo shows a deforested area near Novo Progresso in Brazil’s northern state of Para.. VOA

Several factors

The report finds wetland loss is driven mainly by such factors as climate change, population increase, changing consumption patterns and urbanization, particularly in coastal zones and river deltas.

Also Read: UN Agencies and Bangladesh Government Advances to Prevent Further Deforestation

Authors of the report say biodiversity also is in a state of crisis. They say more than 25 percent of all wetlands plants and animals are at risk of extinction.

Scientists say without biodiversity, there is no future for humanity, because the air people breathe, the water they drink and the food they eat ultimately rely on biodiversity in its many forms. (VOA)