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 From the Arctic to the tropics: researchers present a unique database on Earth’s vegetation
20.11.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg

nachricht Fading stripes in Southeast Asia: First insight into the ecology of an elusive and threatened rabbit
20.11.2018 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.

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: Nonstop Tranport of Cargo in Nanomachines

Max Planck researchers revel the nano-structure of molecular trains and the reason for smooth transport in cellular antennas.

Moving around, sensing the extracellular environment, and signaling to other cells are important for a cell to function properly. Responsible for those tasks...

Im Focus: UNH scientists help provide first-ever views of elusive energy explosion

Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.

Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...

Im Focus: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Optical Coherence Tomography: German-Japanese Research Alliance hosted Medical Imaging Conference

19.11.2018 | Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Nonstop Tranport of Cargo in Nanomachines

20.11.2018 | Life Sciences

Researchers find social cultures in chimpanzees

20.11.2018 | Life Sciences

When AI and optoelectronics meet: Researchers take control of light properties

20.11.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>