End of the Wild

Studying satellite data, researchers found that less than 17 percent of the Earth"s land area could be considered truly wild.© Getty Images

A study released last week in the peer-reviewed journal Science shows that humans have domesticated the planet to such an extent that little true wilderness remains. Researchers spent years combing through satellite data to find that as of 1995, less than 17 percent of the Earth’s land area could be considered truly wild—that is, with no human populations, crops, road access or night-time light.

In the study, entitled "Domesticated Nature: Shaping Landscapes and Ecosystems for Human Welfare," scientists from the Nature Conservancy, Harvard University and Santa Clara University examined specific cases where human development originally intended to increase food production, reduce risk, and enhance global commerce ultimately wreaked havoc on human well-being and natural systems.

"The world is at a tipping point whereby the alterations of landscapes and oceans are causing a net decline in human well-being around the world," says Nature Conservancy chief scientist Peter Kareiva, lead author of the report. "The effects of domesticating nature can be seen everywhere, from noticeable problems like pollution to less-apparent issues such as devastated coastal zones and deadly algae blooms caused by excessive nutrient run-off into watersheds and river basins."

Source: The Nature Conservancy