Two-thirds of remaining wilderness on Earth located in five countries

02 November, 2018, 21:06 | Author: Darnell Taylor
  • A view of a reflection on Lower Kananaskis Lake in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park in Alberta Canada on      Aug. 8 2018

A mere five countries contain 70% of the untouched natural ecosystems left in the world, and will only continue to survive with urgent global cooperation, according to researchers. Calling for a mandated target for wilderness conservation that will preserve the planet's vulnerable ecosystems, the researchers said that the planet's remaining wilderness can be protected "only if it is recognised within worldwide policy frameworks". Much has been lost already but an worldwide target that protects 100 per cent of all remaining intact ecosystems is possible.

"Today, more than 77 percent of land, excluding Antarctica, and 87 percent of the ocean has been modified by the direct effects of human activities", the University of Queensland's Professor James Watson said in a statement about the research that it led on Thursday.

The study follows an alarming report from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), which estimated that human activity has decimated wildlife population by 60% in the past four decades.

The global team that constructed the maps excluded Antarctica for the duel reasons that it is not open to direct resource exploitation, and it is much more hard to assess the indirect effects of human activities.

As for the ocean, the only areas that are free of industrial fishing, pollution and shipping are nearly completely confined to the polar regions, say the authors.

"Some wilderness areas are protected under national legislation, but in most nations, these areas are not formally defined, mapped or protected". This means there is nothing to hold nations, industry, society and community to account for wilderness conservation.

In fact, aside from a large tract crossing Africa, two-thirds of the remaining wilderness on Earth can be found in just five countries - Australia, Brazil, Canada, Russia and the United States.

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The authors recommend imposing global targets within existing frameworks to protect these remaining ecosystems, saying "Already we have lost so much". They also provide increasingly important refuges for species declining in human-dominated landscapes.

For oceans, they used data on fishing, industrial shipping and fertiliser run-off to determine that just 13 percent of the planet's seas bore little or no hallmarks of human activity.

"We can not afford to lose more", he said.

Nearly every nation has signed worldwide environmental agreements that aim to end the biodiversity crisis, halt unsafe climate change, and achieve global sustainable development goals.

It comes ahead of the conference of parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Egypt in November where signatory nations are working towards a plan for the protection of biodiversity beyond 2020. Researchers urges authorities to better conserve these wilderness areas.

Moreover, these spots often act as the world's lungs, storing carbon dioxide that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere.

A diverse set of approaches must be embraced, and the private sector must work with governments so that industry protects, rather than harms, wilderness areas. Particularly, global accountability is necessary, he argues.

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