The researchers state that earth's last remaining wilderness, home to several untouched natural ecosystems, is at the risk of "disappearing completely".
Just five countries hold 70% of the world's remaining untouched wilderness areas and urgent global action is needed to protect them, according to new research. Researchers from the University of Queensland recently mapped ocean ecosystems that have remained unchanged, complementing a 2016 project charting remaining terrestrial wilderness.
And we can not forget Antarctica, arguably Earth's greatest remaining wilderness and one of the last places on the planet where vast regions have never experienced a human footfall.
"In the ocean, the only regions that are free of industrial fishing, pollution and shipping are nearly completely confined to the polar regions", Watson said. Furthermore, just five countries (Australia, the US, Brazil, Russia, and Canada) host the world's remaining wilderness areas.
"Some wilderness areas are protected under national legislation, but in most nations, these areas are not formally defined, mapped or protected".
"Wild areas provide a lot of life support systems for the planet".
Astonishingly, 94 percent of that space is confined to 20 countries, while the top five (Russia, Canada, Australia, the U.S., and Brazil - in that order) possess 70 percent of the world's remaining wilderness. "There is nothing to hold nations, industry, society or communities to account for long-term conservation", said James R. Allan from University of Queensland. This biodiversity makes up several ecosystems, and we humans are linked to nearly every one of them in one way or the other. "Already we have lost so much", the report says.
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"We need the immediate establishment of bold wilderness targets, specifically those aimed at conserving biodiversity, avoiding risky climate change and achieving sustainable development".
At a summit in Egypt later this month, the 196 signatory nations to the Convention on Biological Diversity will work alongside scientists on developing a strategic plan for conservation beyond 2020. Preserving the remaining wilderness regions could be a vital factor in battling climate change and safeguarding our species' well-being.
A global target of retaining 100% of all remaining wilderness is achievable, although it would require stopping industrial activities like mining, logging, and fishing from expanding to new places.
Said John Robinson, WCS Executive Vice President for Global Conservation at WCS and a co-author of the paper: "Wilderness will only be secured globally if these nations take a leadership role".
Moreover, these spots often act as the world's lungs, storing carbon dioxide that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere. "One obvious intervention these nations can prioritize is establishing protected areas in ways that would slow the impacts of industrial activity on the larger landscape or seascape", said Watson.
In addition, wilderness areas are also places where enormous amounts of carbon is stored and sequestered with intact ecosystems being at least twice important than similar degraded habitats when it comes carbon mitigation. Particularly, global accountability is necessary, he argues.