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

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

As can be seen in the graph, 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. In total, only 82.3%, or 25.2 million km sq., of wilderness today is still present in large blocks around the world. 

Declining wilderness areas leads to loss of cultures, medicinal plants, and world 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.

In addition to the cultural interest that wilderness areas represent, it is also important to conserve these areas so that medically important plants can be used. Below is a video interview where I ask a fellow college student the question, "Do you think wilderness areas are important to be conserved?" 

Like he says, the loss of wilderness areas would "limit scientific progress." This is because
wilderness areas also contain plants that are frequently used or studied for medicine. Without access to such plants, it will be harder for certain medicines to be developed, and for illnesses to be treated. 

Conservation efforts need to be implemented as soon as possible.

The loss of wilderness is especially problematic because declining wild areas are ignored as a discussion topic in many international conservation agreements. The figure below, which was taken from the study conducted by Watson, highlights the amount of wilderness lost, and the conservation efforts being made to combat the loss.

As can be seen from the figure, not enough is being done to protect wilderness areas. If nothing is done to change this, then researchers say that "rewilding," or attempts to restore industrialized areas to nature, will all be ineffective.

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