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Planetary Planning: Keeping Half the Earth Natural

Earth in Natural Greenery

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study led by the National Geographic Society and the University of California (UC), Davis, published in the journal Global Change Biology compared four recent global maps of the conversion of natural lands to anthropogenic (human activity) land uses. It concluded that if we act quickly and decisively, there is an opportunity to conserve about half of the planet’s ice-free land. The developed half includes cities, croplands, ranches and mines.

The authors note that areas having low human influence do not necessarily exclude people, livestock or sustainable management of resources. A balanced conservation response that addresses land sovereignty and weighs agriculture, settlement or other resource needs with the protection of ecosystem services and biodiversity is essential. Approximately 15 percent of the Earth’s land surface and 10 percent of the oceans are currently protected in some form.

Lead author Jason Riggio, a postdoctoral scholar at the UC Davis Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology, says, “The encouraging takeaway from this study is that if we act quickly and 
decisively, there is a slim window in which we can still conserve roughly half of Earth’s land in a relatively intact state.”
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