New study shows one-tenth of the world’s wilderness lost since the 1990s

9th Sep 2016
Written by: Dave Owen

It’s a common joke among travellers that soon there will be nowhere on the planet left undiscovered, but a new study has shown that wild places really have drastically declined in the last two decades.

Researchers reporting in the Current Biology journal show huge declines in the world’s wilderness areas over the last 20 years – losses of around a tenth. That’s a total area equivalent to half the size of the Amazon rainforest.

The startling findings have sparked renewed calls for international policies to recognise the value of wilderness areas, and to fight back against the threats facing them.

Wilderness in danger

“Without any policies to protect these areas, they are falling victim to widespread development,” said Dr James Watson of the University of Queensland, Australia. “We probably have one to two decades to turn this around.”

Although much has been done globally to protect endangered species, less attention has been paid to protecting wilderness areas that might make up entire ecosystems.

Around 20% of the world’s land area (30.1 million km2) remains as wilderness, primarily in North America, North Africa, North Asia, and Australia. The study found that since the 1990s 3.3 million km2 of wilderness area has been lost. Worst affected is South America, which showed a 30% decline.

“If we don’t act soon, there will only be tiny remnants of wilderness around the planet, and this is a disaster for conservation, for climate change, and for some of the most vulnerable human communities on the planet,” Watson said. “We have a duty to act for our children and their children.”


Intern in Journalism in Barcelona

from £3,535.00

42 - 180 days

Get ahead in the competitive world of journalism and media by pursuing an internship in Barcelona. Launch your career while...

Learn, Volunteer and Travel

from £370.00

7 - 84 days

This is a unique and worthwhile opportunity to experience Thai culture and volunteer at a local school providing support to...

Nepal – Medical Internship

from £1,115.00

14 - 56 days

Become fully immersed in an observational medical internship - learning, contributing and building great friendships within the medical community.

Special Needs Roles at Summer Camp

from £649.00

63 days

Summer camp in America provides limitless opportunities for campers to step outside their comfort zone. It is the setting for...

Japan Ski or Snowboard Instructor Job & Training

from £4,975.00

120 - 150 days

With EA, you will get a guaranteed job offer, professional instructor training, a guaranteed salary, food and accommodation for the...

Ultimate Vietnam

from £790.00

14 days

See the best of what Vietnam has to offer! Explore Hanoi, escape to Halong Bay on a Junk Boat, stay...

Elephant Rescue and Conservation in Cambodia

from £795.00

7 - 84 days

Observe gentle giants in their natural forest habitat and assist the team in conducting elephant health checks.

International Internship In Thailand

from £1,030.00

60 - 180 days

Thailand has quickly become one of the top entrepreneurial hubs of Asia with ambitious international students looking to launch their...

Volunteer with Children in South Africa

from £945.00

14 days

Assist with childcare & educational activities in a township educare centre while exploring South Africa

Big Cat Wildlife Research

from £1,264.00

14 - 84 days

Assist in the conservation efforts of the Naboisho Conservancy in Kenya's Masai Mara Reserve by monitoring wildlife and conducting important...

Check out these awesome tours!


Cycle Provence & Tuscany

from £2,340.00


Enjoy the best of European cycling on this 15 day adventure in Europe’s premier cycling destinations – Provence and Tuscany....

Rome to Budapest Explorer

from £2,634.15

Austria, Hungary, Italy, Slovenia

For years, travellers have dreamed about exploring cultural, romantic Europe. The time to take that trip is now. We’ve packaged...

Russia Scandi

from £2,609.00

Join us on a scandalously fun adventure tour in Russia and Scandinavia as we take in the best travel experiences...

Iconic India

from £1,355.00


Travel to the far-flung corners of India on this trailblazing adventure tour. In the north, ride camels through Jaisalmer's desert,...

Best of East Africa

from £2,176.00

Tanzania, United Republic of

Find the best of East Africa on this Intrepid adventure as you traverse across Kenya and into Tanzania. Discover the...

Mexican Fiesta

from £1,045.00

7 - 7 days


Viva Mexico! This place truly has it all! Crammed full of rich cultural tradition and diverse geography, there is something...

Kilimanjaro – Marangu Route

from £1,885.00

Tanzania, United Republic of

This classic Tanzania trek is the most popular route to Mt Kilimanjaro and the only one serviced by mountain huts...

Bishkek to Ashgabat Overland

from £2,819.00


Strategically positioned along the Silk Route, the cities of Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva were famed trading centres for the caravans...

Presidents & Parks

from £3,599.00

Ready for an adventure of White House proportions? Through the sparkling cities of D.C., Chicago, Vegas and beyond, you’ll see...

Best of Egypt

from £779.00


This journey through Egypt packs in the best of culture and adventure in eight energetic days. Explore the ancient sites...

More inspiration and advice

[contact-form-7 id="4" title="Contact form 1"]