The untouched wildness areas on earth are rapidly disappearing, and urgent international action is needed to protect them, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature.
"A century ago, only 15 percent of Earth's surface was used to grow crops and raise livestock. Today, more than 77 percent of land, excluding Antarctica, has been modified by human activities," said the report.
Astonishingly, between 1993 and 2009 alone, an area of terrestrial wilderness larger than India -- a staggering 3.3 million square km -- was lost to human settlement, farming, mining and other pressures.The picture is even bleaker in ocean areas.
According to the study, more than 87 percent of the ocean has been exposed to human activities. Areas that are free of industrial fishing, pollution and shipping are almost completely confined to polar regions.
The report calls for immediate action to protect the remaining untouched zones. "Earth's remaining wilderness areas are increasingly important buffers against the effects of climate change and other human impacts," said the report.
Those areas also provide refuges for species that are declining in landscapes dominated by people.
The study believes that the remaining wilderness can be protected only if its importance is recognized within international policy frameworks.
It recommends that urgent protection of earth's wilderness regions should be discussed at two upcoming United Nations conferences, one on biodiversity and one on climate change.