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May 18, 2017. Earth / A Gift of Nature

Earth’s Last Wild Places

Gerardo Ceballos, Ph.D, Nigel J.Collar, Dr. Tracy Farrel, Barbara Goettsch, Vance Martin, Roderic Mast, Jeffrey A. McNeely, Cristina Goetsch Mittermeier, Russell A. Mittermeier, Fabian Oberfeld, Trevor Sandwith, Dr. Jane Smart, Dr. Richard Sneider, Gregory S. Stone & Michael P. Totten

Wilderness is a natural environment on Earth that has not been significantly modified by human activity. The main criteria for wilderness is a minimum size of 10,000 km2 – or 1 million hectares – and a human population density of <5 people/km2. However, particular attention is also paid to those areas with <1 person/km2, since they are really the most intact places left on our planet.

Another important element of a wilderness area, though not a criteria per se, is the continuing presence of what have been called intact faunal assemblages of large mammals and birds, especially large, wide ranging predators (e.g. big cats, bears), large raptors like eagles, large herbivores, large frugivorous primates, and other key species that are the first to disappear in the face of human pressure.

Using these criteria, 37 areas qualify for wilderness status (81 million km2, or 54.2% of Earth’s land surface), of which only 19 have that exceptionally low human population density of < 1 person/km2 (57 million km2, or 38.5% of Earth’s land surface, equivalent to the worlds six largest countries: Russia, Canada, China, USA, Brazil and Australia combined, but has only 0.7% of the world’s human population).

Examples of these areas are: Amazonia, the largest remaining block of rain forest left on Earth, the Congo Forests of Central Africa, which are the second largest tropical forest region, the entire island of New Guinea, which is the second largest island in the world and has the largest tracts of remaining rain forest in the Asia-Pacific region, the MiomboMopane Woodlands and Savannas of southern Africa, home to much of Africa’s remaining Pleistocene megafauna, and the North American Deserts on the Mexico–US border, by far the richest desert region left on Earth.

Conserving the vast majority of remaining wilderness areas is vital to our future well-being and must be a key component of any sustainable development initiative and the management of Planet Earth for future generations.


This is an excerpt from the CEMEX Conservation Series Books A GIFT OF NATURE (2012)


A Gift of Nature

Twenty Years of Conservation & Photography

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