A keen focus based on sound science is key to CI's success. Just as we have applied this approach to protect the biodiversity hotspots
, it is also central to our work conserving more extensive intact ecosystems – the wilderness areas
of the world.
CI's new book Wilderness: Earth's Last Wild Places
, focuses on these intact systems, with emphasis on the high-biodiversity wilderness areas that, like the hotspots, harbor many species
found nowhere else. Although always a priority for CI, tropical wilderness areas have received less public attention than the hotspots. With this book, we hope to call more attention to these places. Many wilderness areas are now under the same pressures that destroyed 90 percent of the hotspots. Moreover, only 7 percent of wilderness is protected. We have a responsibility and a great opportunity to do much more. We are already making strides through our Global Conservation Fund.
According to our analysis, a wilderness area has 70 percent or more of its original vegetation, covers at least 10,000 square kilometers (3,861 square miles) and claims fewer than five people per square kilometer. We identified 37, ranging from tropical rainforests to deserts to arctic tundra. Remarkably, 19 have fewer than one person per square kilometer.
Five stand out for extremely high species endemism: Amazonia
; New Guinea
; the Congo forests
of Central Africa; the Miombo-Mopane
woodlands and grasslands of Southern Africa (including the Okavango); and the North American deserts
. CI is already working in each of these regions, some for more than a decade.
The book highlights biodiversity, threats
, conservation measures and unique human cultures in these places. Another important observation of this study is that these vast areas are not only important for biodiversity, they also have enormous importance for ecosystem services, such as watershed protection and offsetting global warming.