Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Global analysis finds a large portion of the earth is still wilderness

19.08.2003


Five areas, including North America’s deserts, top conservation priorities



According to the most comprehensive global analysis of its kind ever conducted, wilderness still covers a large portion of the Earth’s land surface and contains only a tiny percentage of the world’s population but, surprisingly, only five wilderness areas hold globally significant levels of biodiversity. More than 200 international scientists contributed to the analysis, which is featured in this week’s online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study will appear in the September 2nd print edition.

The 24 wilderness areas identified by the analysis represent 44 percent of the Earth’s land surface, but are occupied by just 3 percent of the world’s population. Five of the wilderness areas fall, at least in part, within the United States, with the North American Desert complex (including northern Mexico) being one of just five "high biodiversity wilderness areas" globally that are high priorities for conservation attention. Only 7 percent of the wilderness areas enjoy any form of protection. Meanwhile, they face threats such as destructive agricultural practices, unsustainable hunting, invasive species, and resource extraction activities like industrial-scale logging and mining.


"Sixteen of the wilderness areas have roughly equal to or less than one person per square kilometer, and a human population of only 43 million, representing an area equivalent to the six largest countries on Earth combined, but with the human population of only three big cities," said lead author Russell Mittermeier, President of Conservation International. "The good news is that we still have these large tracts of land largely intact and uninhabited, but they are increasingly under threat" he warned.

Only five wilderness areas are considered "high-biodiversity wilderness areas" because they contain at least 1,500 endemic vascular plant species, the same criterion used for defining ’biodiversity hotspots.’ These five areas are Amazonia, the Congo Forests of Central Africa, New Guinea, the Miombo-Mopane Woodlands and Savannas of Southern Africa, and the North American Deserts complex of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. Between them, these five wilderness areas contain more than 17 percent of all plants and 8 percent of vertebrates in just over 6 percent of Earth’s land surface.

"As striking as these wilderness numbers are, they underscore more than ever the critical importance of protecting the biodiversity hotspots, areas which represent only 1.4 percent of the Earth’s land area but which contain 44 percent of all vascular plants and 35 percent of all mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians as endemics, meaning they are found nowhere else," said Mittermeier.

"By targeting the 25 biodiversity hotspots plus the five high-biodiversity wilderness areas, we could save a vastly disproportionate number of the world’s species," added Thomas Brooks, Senior Director for CI’s Conservation Synthesis Program. "The conservation community would be wise to allocate their scarce resources accordingly."

The wilderness areas are also critical for the survival of many of the world’s remaining indigenous groups, who traditionally live at low densities over extensive areas, but have been driven to cultural extinction by the pace of development over much of the planet.

"The high-biodiversity wilderness areas are major storehouses of biological diversity but, just as importantly, they provide critical ecosystem services to the planet," said co-author Gustavo Fonseca, Conservation International’s Executive Vice President of Programs and Science. "That means they regulate clean water for the planet, reduce the effects of global warming, encourage pollination and wildlife migration--and, of course, have enormous recreational, aesthetic and spiritual value to people."

The 24 wilderness areas analyzed in the PNAS paper, along with several others, were profiled in a book published earlier this year, Wilderness: Earth’s Last Wild Places. The analyses were primarily conducted by the Center for the Applied Biodiversity Science (CABS) at Conservation International (CI) with support from the Global Conservation Fund and the Mexican company CEMEX, in collaboration with the Mexican non-governmental organization Agrupación Sierra Madre.

Areas qualifying as "wilderness" have 70 percent or more of their original vegetation intact, cover at least 10,000 square kilometers (3,861 square miles) and contain fewer than five people per square kilometer.


###
About the Authors:

Dr. Russell Mittermeier, a world-renowned primatologist, is the president of Consevation International. Cristina Goettsch Mittermeier is a marine biologist and professional photographer. Dr. Gustavo Fonseca is Conservation International’s Executive Vice President of Programs and Science and Executive Director of the Center for Applied Biodiversity Science at CI. Dr. Thomas Brooks is Senior Director of CI’s Conservation Synthesis Department. John Pilgrim is a Biodiversity Analyst for the Global Conservation Fund at CI, and William Konstant is Director of Special Programs in the President’s Office at CI. Cyril Kormos is Vice President for Policy with the WILD Foundation.

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

Brad Phillips | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.conservation.org/

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht How does the loss of species alter ecosystems?
18.05.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig

nachricht Excess diesel emissions bring global health & environmental impacts
16.05.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

Im Focus: Using graphene to create quantum bits

In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.

In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...

Im Focus: Bacteria harness the lotus effect to protect themselves

Biofilms: Researchers find the causes of water-repelling properties

Dental plaque and the viscous brown slime in drainpipes are two familiar examples of bacterial biofilms. Removing such bacterial depositions from surfaces is...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

Innovation 4.0: Shaping a humane fourth industrial revolution

17.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Scientists propose synestia, a new type of planetary object

23.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Zap! Graphene is bad news for bacteria

23.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Medical gamma-ray camera is now palm-sized

23.05.2017 | Medical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>