Wilderness Areas Rapidly Disappearing Around the World

Since 1990's, a tenth of the areas classified as wilderness have been destroyed. 

For millennia, humans have altered the Earth to suit their own needs. However in the process, we simultaneously destroy the ecosystems and natural life that previously existed there. In modern times, we are more environmentally conscious of our own actions. Many conservation efforts have been made to protect nature, but one concern that has been mostly ignored is the conservation of wilderness. In fact, the report points out that despite successful attempts to establish protected areas after the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, "the increase in protection of wilderness has lagged significantly behind losses."

Wilderness is defined as areas in which natural ecological and evolutionary processes operate with minimal human interference. They are preserved as strongholds for endangered biodiversity as well as homes for indigenous populations who still live according to the old ways. 

However, recent research conducted by James E.M. Watson shows that an estimated 3.3 million km sq. of wilderness area has been lost since the 1990's. This is almost 10% of the total wilderness classified area. 

The figure below created during the study maps the total loss of wilderness since early 1990's.

Most of the loss in wilderness is concentrated in South America and Africa, with each losing 29.6% and 14% respectively. In addition, 37 of the 350 wilderness areas that were present in the early 1990's have fallen below the boundary set by the study to determine globally significant areas. However, it is encouraging to note that 82.3%, or 25.2 million km sq., of wilderness today is still present in large blocks around the world. 

Without conservation efforts, the world will lose many indigenous cultures and much of its biodiversity. 

This is a serious problem that needs to be addressed quickly, because of the ecological and cultural value that wild areas represent. Many indigenous people habit these areas in addition to many kinds of endangered plants and animals. Without them, we would lose much of the biodiversity that is present on Earth. The issue is especially problematic because declining wild areas are ignored as a discussion topic in many international conservation agreements. If nothing is done to change this, than researchers say that "rewilding," or attempts to restore industrialized areas to nature, will all be ineffective.


Nogués-Bravo, David et al. "Rewilding is the new Pandora’s box in conservation"
Current Biology , Volume 26 , Issue 3 , R87 - R91

Watson, James E.M. et al. "Catastrophic Declines in Wilderness Areas Undermine Global Environment Targets" Current Biology , Volume 0 , Issue 0.

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