Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Global Analysis Finds Nearly Half The Earth Is Still Wilderness

Date:
December 5, 2002
Source:
Conservation International
Summary:
According to the most comprehensive global analysis ever conducted, wilderness areas still cover close to half the Earth's land, but contain only a tiny percentage of the world's population. More than 200 international scientists contributed to the analysis, which will be published in the book, Wilderness: Earth's Last Wild Places, (University of Chicago Press, 2003).

December 4, 2002 (Washington, DC) – According to the most comprehensive global analysis ever conducted, wilderness areas still cover close to half the Earth's land, but contain only a tiny percentage of the world's population. More than 200 international scientists contributed to the analysis, which will be published in the book, Wilderness: Earth's Last Wild Places, (University of Chicago Press, 2003).

The 37 wilderness areas identified in the book represent 46 percent of the Earth's land surface, but are occupied by just 2.4 percent of the world's population, excluding urban centers. Nine of the wilderness areas fall, at least in part, within the United States.

Although the wilderness areas are still largely intact, they are increasingly threatened by population growth, encroaching agriculture and resource extraction activities. Barely 7 percent of the areas currently enjoy some form of protection.

Nineteen of the wilderness areas have remarkably low population densities – an average of less than one person per square kilometer. Excluding urban centers, these 19 areas represent 38 percent of the Earth's land surface, but hold only 0.7 percent of the planet's population.

"These very low density areas represent a landmass equivalent to the six largest countries on Earth combined – Russia, Canada, China, the United States, Brazil and Australia – but have within them the population of only three large cities, a truly remarkable finding," said co-author Russell Mittermeier, President of Conservation International. "It's good news that we still have these large tracts of land largely intact and uninhabited, but these areas are increasingly under threat."

The large-format, 576-page book depicts rare species and remarkable places in more than 500 breathtaking color photographs that accompany detailed information regarding the habitat, species and cultural diversity of each wilderness area. The analysis was mainly carried out over the past two years by Conservation International's Center for Applied Biodiversity Science with support from the Global Conservation Fund.

The wilderness areas include several diverse habitats, ranging from Southern Africa's Miombo-Mopane Woodlands, with the world's largest remaining population of African elephants, to the Sonoran and Baja Californian Deserts of Arizona, California and Mexico, with their Gila woodpeckers and giant cacti, to Amazonia's rainforests, teeming with biodiversity including 30,000 endemic plant species and 122 endemic primate species and subspecies.

To qualify as "wilderness," an area has 70 percent or more of its original vegetation intact, covers at least 10,000 square kilometers (3,861 square miles) and most have fewer than five people per square kilometer.

"Wilderness areas are major storehouses of biodiversity, but just as importantly, they provide critical ecosystem services to the planet, including watershed maintenance, pollination and carbon sequestration," said Gustavo Fonseca, Executive Director of CI's Center for Applied Biodiversity Science. "As international debates on climate change and water security continue, these wilderness areas take on even greater importance."

Only five wilderness areas are considered "high-biodiversity wilderness areas," because they contain at least 1,500 endemic vascular plant species, meaning they are found nowhere else in the world. The five areas are Amazonia, the Congo Forests of Central Africa, New Guinea, the North American Deserts and the Miombo-Mopane Woodlands and Grasslands of Southern Africa.

"These wilderness areas are important for any global strategy of protecting biodiversity, since we have the opportunity to save large tracts of land at relatively low costs," said Peter Seligmann, CI's Chairman and CEO. "The areas are also critical for Earth's remaining indigenous groups, which often want to protect their traditional ways of life from the unwanted by-products of modern society."

"As striking as these wilderness numbers are, they only serve to underscore more than ever the critical importance of protecting the biodiversity hotspots, areas which represent only 1.4 percent of the Earth's landmass but contain more than 60 percent of its terrestrial species," said Mittermeier. "If we are to succeed as conservationists, we have to take a two-pronged approach of protecting the biodiversity hotspots and high-biodiversity wilderness areas simultaneously."

The book is the result of collaboration between Conservation International and Agrupación Sierra Madre, and is published by CEMEX, a Mexican company that also published the first two books in this series, Megadiversity and Hotspots.

Wilderness: Earth's Last Wild Places is now available through Conservation International (www.conservation.org). The University of Chicago Press will accept pre-orders beginning in December (www.press.uchicago.edu), and the book will be available in bookstores in Spring, 2003.

Conservation International (CI) applies innovations in science, economics, policy and community participation to protect the Earth's richest regions of plant and animal diversity in the hotspots, major tropical wilderness areas and key marine ecosystems. With headquarters in Washington, D.C., CI works in more than 30 countries on four continents. For more information about CI's programs, visit http://www.conservation.org.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Conservation International. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Conservation International. "Global Analysis Finds Nearly Half The Earth Is Still Wilderness." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 December 2002. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/12/021205084053.htm>.
Conservation International. (2002, December 5). Global Analysis Finds Nearly Half The Earth Is Still Wilderness. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/12/021205084053.htm
Conservation International. "Global Analysis Finds Nearly Half The Earth Is Still Wilderness." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/12/021205084053.htm (accessed August 23, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Endangered Red Wolves Face Uncertain Future

Endangered Red Wolves Face Uncertain Future

AP (Aug. 22, 2014) — A federal judge temporarily banned coyote hunting to save endangered red wolves, but local hunters say that the wolf preservation program does more harm than good. Meanwhile federal officials are reviewing its wolf program in North Carolina. (Aug. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Farm Resurgence Grows With Younger Crowd

Farm Resurgence Grows With Younger Crowd

AP (Aug. 22, 2014) — New England farms are seeing a surge in younger farm hands as the 'buy local' food movement grows across the country. (Aug. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Drug Used To Treat 'Ebola's Cousin' Shows Promise

Drug Used To Treat 'Ebola's Cousin' Shows Promise

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) — An experimental drug used to treat Marburg virus in rhesus monkeys could give new insight into a similar treatment for Ebola. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Terrifying City-Dwelling Spiders Are Bigger And More Fertile

Terrifying City-Dwelling Spiders Are Bigger And More Fertile

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) — According to a new study, spiders that live in cities are bigger, fatter and multiply faster. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins