Wilderness is a vital element of our natural and cultural heritage. It provides important economic, social and environmental benefits to societies, and performs many functions more effectively than human-dominated landscapes. However a recent study shares alarming data on the decline of global Wilderness, and how our efforts to protect Wilderness cannot keep up.
Please also read: Species are disappearing, so is Wilderness
Wilderness is declining faster than we are protecting it
The study, by Watson et al., highlights the current distribution of global Wilderness, and its decline in the last two decades. 23.2% of the world’s land remains as Wilderness. This is mostly in North America, Asia, Africa and Australia – very little remains in Europe. However we have lost almost 10% of global Wilderness in the last two decades! There has been a lack of global recognition of Wilderness, and this has led to lagging efforts to protect it. For example in the past two decades, 2.5 million km² of Wilderness has been newly protected, but in the same period of time we have lost 3.3 million km² of Wilderness.
Why should we protect Wilderness?
Wilderness is important, it is a reminder of how Earth was before human modification. In a world fighting against the negative impacts of humans (such as climate change, urbanisation, deforestation), Wilderness represents the wildest and final fragments of our planet. They provide a safe refuge for rare and important species. But they also provide us with many other benefits:
- Conserving natural processes
- Securing evolutionary genetic potential
- Conserving biodiversity, especially large herbivores, top predators and scavenger communities
- Protecting essential ecosystem services
- Connecting landscapes
- Capturing and storing carbon dioxide
- Building scientific knowledge and understanding of natural processes
- Inspiring people
Wilderness provides us with health, inspiration, peace, connection, solace, adventure, and it is our responsibility to protect it!
What would it take to protect Wilderness?
Ultimately, to protect Wilderness, we require changes to global policy. This stems back to national level, then local level, and begins with the public. That means YOU! You can support an NGO, for example our work, and advocate for the protection of wild spaces. The European Wilderness Society continues its mission to identify, designate, steward and promote Europe’s remaining Wilderness. Our work is only possible with your support. We thank you for your readership, and encourage you to continue supporting Wilderness. Together we can protect Wilderness!
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