Wilderness across the planet is disappearing on a huge scale, according to a new study that found human activities had converted an area the size of Mexico from virtually intact natural landscapes to heavily modified ones in just 13 years.
Almost 20% of the earth’s surface had deteriorated, the study found, while human pressure had eased on only six per cent of the planet. Russia, Canada, Brazil, and Australia held the largest intact areas, together responsible for 60% of the world’s most untouched places. Tropical savannahs and grasslands lost the most area to human pressure.
Scale of destruction
Between 2000 and 2013, Earth lost an area of undisturbed ecosystems roughly the size of Mexico. That’s the mind-melting finding of a new study published in One Earth and the researchers say it has “profound implications” for global biodiversity and for humans who rely on natural resources
In total, the researchers found that 1.9 million square kilometers (approximately 700,000 square miles) of previously intact ecosystem area had been “highly modified” during the study period.
The 1.9 million square kilometers lost were mostly tropical and subtropical grasslands in Asia, South America and Africa, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), which participated in the research. The rainforests of Southeast Asia also suffered significant human encroachments.
To achieve these results, an international team of 17 scientists from six countries used satellite imagery to assess the human footprint on land-based ecosystems and how it had changed between 2000 and 2013. The researchers found that human pressure increased on nearly 20 percent of the globe and decreased on only around six percent.
The study comes amidst other dire news for wildlife and biodiversity. A UN study released last week found that world governments had failed to achieve any of the 20 targets they had set for preserving biodiversity by 2020. Another study published this month found that wildlife populations had plummeted 68 percent on average over the last 50 years.
- Between the years 2000 and 2013, 1.9 million square kilometers of undisturbed ecosystems have been lost, according to a study.
- 58.4% of Earth’s land ecosystems were under “moderate or intense” pressure from human activity.
- Researchers used satellite imagery to assess the human footprint on land-based ecosystems.
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