Change in terrestrial human footprint drives continued loss of intact ecosystems

Our ability to map humanity’s influence across Earth has evolved, thanks to powerful computing, a network of earth observing satellites, and new bottom-up census and crowd-sourced data. Here, we provide the latest temporally inter-comparable maps of the terrestrial Human Footprint, and assessment of change in human pressure at global, biome, and ecoregional scales. In 2013, 42% of terrestrial Earth could be considered relatively free of anthropogenic disturbance, and 25% could be classed as ‘wilderness’(the least degraded end of the human footprint spectrum). Between 2000 and 2013, 1.9 million km 2-an area the size of Mexico-of land relatively free of human disturbance became highly modified. The majority of this occurred within tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannah, and shrubland ecosystems, but the rainforests of Southeast Asia also underwent rapid modification. Our results show that humanity’s footprint is eroding Earth’s last intact ecosystems, and greater efforts are urgently needed to retain them. Find the paper here

Photo credit: Liana Joseph

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