In Brief

The world’s wildest countries

Humans have ‘modified’ 77% of the Earth’s surface. So what remains unspoiled?

Just five countries contain more than two-thirds of the world’s wilderness, or land untouched by humans, according to a new list made by Australian scientists.

Researchers from the University of Queensland (UQ) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) have compiled the first comprehensive map detailing what is left of the world’s pristine marine and terrestrial wilderness.

Excluding Antarctica, humans have modified 77% of the Earth’s surface, and 87% of the oceans, they said, after analysing 2016 land data and 2018 ocean data.

According to their results, which are published in the science journal Nature, “most of Earth’s surface has been modified by human activities, and we are running out of time to save what is left”, says ABC Australia.

Five countries have the majority of the remaining wilderness, and one of the researchers, Dr James Watson, told ABC Australia that they should be the countries that shoulder the responsibility to protect it.

“Australia is one of them. The United States in another, Russia, Canada, and Brazil - those five nations hold 70 per cent of all the wilderness, not including the high seas and Antarctica,” he said.

Numerous studies “are revealing that Earth’s remaining wilderness areas are increasingly important buffers against the effects of climate change and other human impacts”, the researchers say in Nature.

But they said the onus must now be on the United Nations and other decision-makers to come up with a target to “stop biodiversity loss in its tracks”.

“It’s time to rethink the strategy, and we’re arguing quite forcefully that we need a bold target,” said Watson.

“We need to say, let’s keep 100 per cent of the last places intact.”

Here are the 20 countries that hold 94% of the natural wilderness, excluding Antarctica and the high seas:

  1. Russia
  2. Canada
  3. Australia
  4. United States
  5. Brazil
  6. France
  7. Kiribati
  8. China
  9. New Zealand
  10. Algeria
  11. Libya
  12. Denmark
  13. Niger
  14. Mauritania
  15. Mali
  16. Norway
  17. Chad
  18. United Kingdom
  19. Greenland
  20. Egypt

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