Just 5 Percent of Earth’s Landscape Is Untouched, Report Finds
A comprehensive new high-resolution analysis of human modification of the planet finds that just 5% of the Earth’s land surface is currently unaffected by humans, far lower than a previous estimate of 19%. 95% of the Earth’s land surface has some indication of human modification, while 84% has multiple human impacts, the study found. New Atlas reports: The researchers from The Nature Conservancy and Conservation Science Partners used publicly available, high-resolution data from ground surveys and remotely sensed imagery on land use in 1 square kilometer grids to provide a spatial assessment of the impact of 13 human-caused stressors across all terrestrial lands, biomes and ecological regions, including: Agriculture; The physical extent of human settlement; Transportation, including railroads and minor roads; Mining, energy production; and Electrical infrastructure, including power lines.
52% of ecological regions and 49% of countries are considered moderately modified. These regions are highly fragmented, retain up to only 50% of low modified lands and fall within critical land use thresholds. Only 30% of terrestrial ecological regions and 18% of the world’s countries have a low degree of land modification and retain most of their natural lands, which are distant from human settlements, agriculture and other modified environments. The study found the least modified biomes tend to be in high latitudes and include tundra, boreal forests, or taiga and temperate coniferous forests. On the other hand, the most modified biomes include more tropical landscapes, such as temperate broadleaf and mixed forests, as well as mangroves.
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