Sci­en­tists call for stop to dis­ap­pear­ance of Earth’s re­main­ing in­tact land, sea

The Prince George Citizen - - News - Camille BAINS

VAN­COU­VER — Re­searchers who have pro­duced a map of the world’s re­main­ing in­tact land and ocean ar­eas are urg­ing in­ter­na­tional del­e­gates at an up­com­ing meet­ing on bio­di­ver­sity to set a tar­get and push gov­ern­ments to con­serve what’s left of the wild.

Os­car Ven­ter, as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of forestry in the ecosys­tems sci­ence and man­age­ment depart­ment at the Uni­ver­sity of North­ern Bri­tish Columbia, said the map shows hu­man ac­tiv­ity has en­croached on 87 per cent of the ocean and more than 77 per cent of Earth’s land, ex­clud­ing Antarc­tica.

“There’s nor­mally this idea that wilder­ness is kind of remote and it’s far from peo­ple and it’s safe but through our work we’ve shown this is re­ally not the case,” he said.

He said the 14th gath­er­ing of a bio­di­ver­sity con­ven­tion, hosted by Egypt and in­volv­ing 190 na­tions later this month, should in­clude a man­dated global tar­get be­yond 2020 to save all re­main­ing in­tact ecosys­tems.

Ven­ter and sci­en­tists from Aus­tralia and the United States have out­lined their con­cerns in a pa­per pub­lished in the jour­nal Na­ture.

They say a cen­tury ago, only 15 per cent of Earth’s land was used to grow crops and raise live­stock and be­tween 1993 and 2009, an area larger than In­dia – 3.3 mil­lion square kilo­me­tres – was lost to hu­man set­tle­ment, farm­ing, min­ing and other in­dus­tries.

As for the ocean, the only ar­eas that are free of in­dus­trial fish­ing, pol­lu­tion and ship­ping are al­most com­pletely con­fined to the po­lar re­gions, say the au­thors.

Their map­ping meth­ods for ter­res­trial wilder­ness in­cluded data such as pop­u­la­tion den­sity, night-time lights and ma­jor road­ways and in­di­ca­tors such as fish­ing, fer­til­izer run-off and in­dus­trial ship­ping to de­ter­mine ocean ecosys­tems.

The au­thors say more than 70 per cent of the world’s re­main­ing land mass is in five coun­tries: Rus­sia, Canada, Aus­tralia, the United States and Brazil.

Ven­ter said those coun­tries have a role to play in pre­serv­ing wilder­ness, in­clud­ing the bo­real for­est of Canada, which could be im­pacted by cli­mate change ac­cord­ing to the Prairie Cli­mate Cen­tre at the Uni­ver­sity of Win­nipeg.

How­ever, re­cent gut­ting of en­vi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tions in the United States and pos­si­ble ex­ploita­tion of the Ama­zon un­der Brazil’s new pres­i­dent are adding to the ur­gency for na­tions to take ac­tion.

The au­thors say the steps that coun­tries take, or do not, to limit the ex­pan­sion of roads and ship­ping lanes and to re­duce largescale de­vel­op­ments in min­ing, forestry, agri­cul­ture, aquacultur­e and in­dus­trial fish­ing will be crit­i­cal.

“This is a very im­por­tant time to raise aware­ness about the value of these sys­tems, about how im­per­illed they are and to help de­ci­sion-mak­ing that bal­ances hu­man needs and en­vi­ron­men­tal needs and think strate­gi­cally about where we de­velop and how we de­velop,” Ven­ter said. “I don’t think the con­ser­va­tion com­mu­nity is call­ing for no de­vel­op­ment, we’re call­ing for strate­gic de­vel­op­ment, and de­vel­op­ment that’s both sus­tain­able eco­log­i­cally and so­cially.”

Wilder­ness ar­eas with pure wa­ter, un­con­tam­i­nated fish stocks and a high abun­dance of game species are also im­por­tant for the liveli­hood of the world’s In­dige­nous peo­ple, who must be con­sulted, Ven­ter said, adding gov­ern­ments in Brazil and Aus­tralia have high lev­els of in­volve­ment by In­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ties in their de­ci­sion-mak­ing.

“I think that’s the model we re­ally need to look to in Canada,” he said.

First Na­tions who fought a fiveyear le­gal bat­tle to pro­tect the Peel wa­ter­shed in Yukon won a Supreme Court of Canada vic­tory in 2017, forc­ing the gov­ern­ment to con­sider an in­de­pen­dent com­mis­sion’s plan to save 80 per cent of the swath of pris­tine sub-Arc­tic wilder­ness from de­vel­op­ment.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.