It seems like there are few places on Earth not manipulated by human activity, but new research shows that roughly half of the world’s land shows ‘low’ influence of humans.
In the study, researchers compared figures from four different sets of spatial data to determine that 48 to 56 percent of the Earth’s surface could still be preserved in close to its untouched state.
“Though human land uses are increasingly threatening Earth’s remaining natural habitats, especially in warmer and more hospitable areas, nearly half of Earth still remains in areas without large-scale intensive use,” says environmental scientist Erle Ellis from the University of Maryland-Baltimore County.
Although this is good news for potential conservation of undeveloped areas, it is also a concerning illustration of how much of the Earth has already been exploited for human use. When looking at more specific breakdowns, 20 to 34 percent of the planet’s ice‐free terrestrial surface shows ‘very low’ signs of human influence. Most of the undisturbed areas are also the least inhabitable.
Areas of highest human influence include temperate grasslands, tropical coniferous forests, and tropical dry forests as well as tropical grasslands, mangroves, and montane grasslands. Unsurprisingly, the areas with the most viable and easily accessible resources have been the most manipulated, but a clearer picture of where human activity is disrupting natural systems gives us a better opportunity to protect vulnerable regions.
Only about 15 percent of the planet is under some form of environmental protection, but this new research gives us a hopeful opportunity to conserve the natural spaces we have left and defend those which have been over extracted.