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In 2016, an worldwide team of researchers mapped terrestrial wilderness across the globe.

Just five countries hold 70% of the world's remaining untouched wilderness areas and urgent worldwide action is needed to protect them, according to new research.

Now, Watson and colleagues have published similar results on ocean habitats, finding that outside the polar areas, there are nearly no wilderness areas - and if current trends continue, they will soon be altered too.

Wilderness, the study's authors said, is defined as an area not subject to direct human use.

"A few countries own a lot of this untouched land and they have a massive responsibility to keep the last of the wild".

At the 14 meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), held from November 17-29, signatory governments, intergovernmental organizations such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), international non-governmental organizations, and the scientific community will meet to work towards a strategic plan for the protection of biodiversity after 2020. The results reveal that 70% of such untouched wilderness is located in just five countries around the world - Russia, Canada, Brazil, United States, and Australia. Currently, human activity affects 77 percent of the land area, including Antarctica, and 87 percent of the World's oceans. But success will depend on the steps these "mega-wilderness nations" take, or fail to take, to secure the future of Earth's last remaining wild places.

Nearly two-thirds of marine wilderness is in the high seas, beyond nations' immediate control.

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They form vital refuges for thousands of endangered species threatened by deforestation and overfishing, and provide some of our best defences against the devastating weather events brought about by climate change.

The study follows an alarming report from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), which estimated that human activity has decimated wildlife population by 60% in the past four decades. "It might be hard to believe, but between 1993 and 2009, an area of terrestrial wilderness larger than India, a staggering 3.3 million square kilometers, was lost to human settlement, farming, mining and other pressures", said Watson. (3,861 sq. mi.). The survey excludes Antarctica and the open seas, but the authors note that marine regions "free of industrial fishing, pollution and shipping are nearly completely confined to the polar regions". Researchers urges authorities to better conserve these wilderness areas.

"We need the immediate establishment of bold wilderness targets, specifically those aimed at conserving biodiversity, avoiding unsafe climate change and achieving sustainable development".

"It's achievable to have a target of 100%", Watson said.

Moreover, these spots often act as the world's lungs, storing carbon dioxide that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere.

"One obvious intervention these nations can prioritize is establishing protected areas in ways that would slow the impacts of industrial activity on the larger landscape or seascape", Watson said. It can also be called a wild or natural area, but in many countries, Wilderness Area actually has a legal meaning.


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