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Uneven growth of human footprint

Nature volume 537, page 11 (01 September 2016) | Download Citation

The human footprint on the global environment increased by just 9% from 1993 to 2009, even though the world's population grew by 23% and the economy by 153% during that period. However, this varied by region.

A previous study had looked at humanity's impacts on the terrestrial globe, using satellite and survey data from 1993 to quantify built environments, agricultural land, population density and other variables. To update the work, Oscar Venter at the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George, Canada, and his colleagues compared those numbers with 2009 data.

Image: Nature Commun.

They found that areas with the highest levels of biodiversity, including many tropical areas, showed the fastest growth of the human footprint (pictured, in red and orange). Wealthy nations and those with strong control of corruption and high rates of urbanization showed the least growth in impacts (green).

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