Catastrophic declines in wilderness areas undermine global environmental targets

Watson, James E. M., Shanahan, Danielle F., Di Marco, Moreno, Allan, James, Laurance, William F., Sanderson, Eric W., Mackey, Brendan and Venter, Oscar (2016) Catastrophic declines in wilderness areas undermine global environmental targets. Current Biology, 26 21: 2929-2934. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2016.08.049


Author Watson, James E. M.
Shanahan, Danielle F.
Di Marco, Moreno
Allan, James
Laurance, William F.
Sanderson, Eric W.
Mackey, Brendan
Venter, Oscar
Title Catastrophic declines in wilderness areas undermine global environmental targets
Journal name Current Biology   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0960-9822
1879-0445
Publication date 2016-09-08
Year available 2016
Sub-type Critical review of research, literature review, critical commentary
DOI 10.1016/j.cub.2016.08.049
Open Access Status Not yet assessed
Volume 26
Issue 21
Start page 2929
End page 2934
Total pages 6
Place of publication Cambridge, MA, United States
Publisher Cell Press
Language eng
Abstract Humans have altered terrestrial ecosystems for millennia [1], yet wilderness areas still remain as vital refugia where natural ecological and evolutionary processes operate with minimal human disturbance [2-4], underpinning key regional- and planetary-scale functions [5, 6]. Despite the myriad values of wilderness areas-as critical strongholds for endangered biodiversity [7], for carbon storage and sequestration [8], for buffering and regulating local climates [9], and for supporting many of the world's most politically and economically marginalized communities [10]-they are almost entirely ignored in multilateral environmental agreements. This is because they are assumed to be relatively free from threatening processes and therefore are not a priority for conservation efforts [11, 12]. Here we challenge this assertion using new comparable maps of global wilderness following methods established in the original "last of the wild" analysis [13] to examine the change in extent since the early 1990s. We demonstrate alarming losses comprising one-tenth (3.3 million km(2)) of global wilderness areas over the last two decades, particularly in the Amazon (30%) and central Africa (14%). We assess increases in the protection of wilderness over the same time frame and show that these efforts are failing to keep pace with the rate of wilderness loss, which is nearly double the rate of protection. Our findings underscore an immediate need for international policies to recognize the vital values of wilderness and the unprecedented threats they face and to underscore urgent large-scale, multifaceted actions needed to maintain them.
Formatted abstract
Humans have altered terrestrial ecosystems for millennia, yet wilderness areas still remain as vital refugia where natural ecological and evolutionary processes operate with minimal human disturbance, underpinning key regional- and planetary-scale functions. Despite the myriad values of wilderness areas—as critical strongholds for endangered biodiversity, for carbon storage
and sequestration , for buffering and regulating local climates, and for supporting many of the world’s most politically and economically marginalized communities—they are almost entirely ignored in multilateral environmental agreements. This is because they are assumed to be relatively free from threatening processes and therefore are not a priority for conservation efforts. Here we challenge this assertion using new comparable maps of global wilderness following methods established in the original ‘‘last of the wild’’ analysis to examine the change in extent since the early 1990s. We demonstrate alarming losses comprising one-tenth (3.3 million km2) of global wilderness areas over the last two decades, particularly in the Amazon (30%) and central Africa (14%). We assess increases in the protection of wilderness over the same time frame and show that these
efforts are failing to keep pace with the rate of wilderness loss, which is nearly double the rate of protection. Our findings underscore an immediate need for international policies to recognize the vital values of wilderness and the unprecedented threats they face and to underscore urgent large-scale, multifaceted actions needed to maintain them.
Keyword Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
Cell Biology
Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
Cell Biology
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Critical review of research, literature review, critical commentary
Collections: School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management Publications
HERDC Pre-Audit
School of Biological Sciences Publications
 
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 11 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
Scopus Citation Count Cited 17 times in Scopus Article | Citations
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Created: Mon, 10 Oct 2016, 22:50:08 EST by James Watson on behalf of School of Geography, Planning & Env Management