The world's last wilderness areas are rapidly disappearing due to human activities, according to a study which found that between 1993 and 2009 an area larger than India was lost to settlement, farming, mining and other pressures. Researchers from the University of Queensland (UQ) in Australia said explicit international conservation targets are critically needed to protect the world's remaining wilderness. The study, published in the journal Nature, mapped intact ocean ecosystems, complementing a 2016 project charting remaining terrestrial wilderness. Professor James Watson, from UQ's School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, said the two studies provided the first full global picture of how little wilderness remains.
The researchers said in the ocean, the only regions that are free of industrial fishing, pollution and shipping are almost completely confined to the polar regions. UQ Postdoctoral Research Fellow James R Allan said the world's remaining wilderness could only be protected if its importance was recognised in international policy. "We need the immediate establishment of bold wilderness targets -- specifically those aimed at conserving biodiversity, avoiding dangerous climate change and achieving sustainable development," said Allan. The researchers insist that global policy needs to be translated into local action.