Call of the wild: define it or lose it

Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Ås, Norway.

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Center for International Forestry Research, Nairobi, Kenya.

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Center for International Forestry Research, Bogor, Indonesia.

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In our view, defining and quantifying the world’s remaining wilderness and its values call for more concerted efforts towards consensus. To inform conservation policy, concerned scientists and agencies should look beyond their own criteria, measures and thresholds for identifying ‘intact’ ecosystems (see J. E. M. Watson et al. Nature 563, 27–30; 2018).

Specifically, a map of valued natural regions should include all wild lands generally judged to be important — such as New Guinea’s Foja Mountains (Nature 439, 774; 2006) and the Congo Basin’s Cuvette Centrale, with its near-pristine peatlands (G. C. Dargie et al. Nature 542, 86–90; 2017). Otherwise, policymakers might wrongly infer that omitted areas are tainted by human presence and no longer worth protecting.

Conservation is a societal goal, and broad agreement on what is worth conserving is a necessary basis for action. Some might want vast empty spaces; others will want smaller, value-rich ones. If wilderness is to remain broadly inspirational and beneficial, we need an inclusive approach to identifying and promoting the requisite goals and actions.

Nature 565, 429 (2019)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-00230-w

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