Over 10 percent of Earth's wilderness lost in under 20 years

Posted Sep 9, 2016 by Marcus Hondro
A study from a university in Canada has found that during the past two decades the Earth has lost, thanks to humans, 20 percent of its wilderness. It's being called an alarming rate of loss and it continues unabated.
Caledonian Forest remnant at Glen Affric west of Loch Ness  Scotland with Mam Dodhail in background.
Caledonian Forest remnant at Glen Affric west of Loch Ness, Scotland with Mam Dodhail in background.
Wikimedia Commons
Loss of wilderness
The study comes from researchers at the University of Northern British Columbia and was published the journal Current Biology under the title Catastrophic Declines in Wilderness Areas Undermine Global Environment Targets.
The study found the greater proportion of wilderness loss in the past 17 years has been in the Amazon and West Africa where land is taken to extract resources and for pastures. All regions of the Earth have experienced dramatic loss.
In Canada, the researchers say much of the loss has been in the North, but there has been loss in all regions with great expanses of forest and wildlife.
And when humans encroach on land and destroy wilderness, wildlife suffers. Lead author of the study, Oscar Venter of UNBC told CBC science columnist Torah Kachur lands being lost "...really represent the last refuge for many of the world's endangered species. Really the last places that they're holding on is in the wilderness."
Indigenous cultures lose land
Venter said the loss also does great damage to ecosystems. Further, he said it is harmful to many humans because wilderness is "the last home and livelihood for many of the world's most economically and politically marginalized people. A lot of the world's Indigenous cultures live in or use wilderness areas in often traditional ways."
Kachur noted that of the wilderness that has been lost "the measured (amount) is 3.3 million square kilometres — about the size of two Alaskas. In Canadian terms, that's almost 600 Prince Edward Islands or five Albertas." The title of Kachur's column asks the question 'Is the world running out of wilderness?"
The study points out that there is no global policy in place to protect wilderness but notes that it is not too late to take steps to do so. However, the loss of the Earth's wilderness, the study found, continues at an alarming rate.