Ecologically unspoiled is defined as the existence of all original animal species with a healthy population and the existence of undamaged habitats.
Previous analysis, largely using satellite photographs, estimated that 20 to 40 percent of the Earth’s surface was minimally affected by human activity.
Elephants and wolves matter to life
But the forests, savannahs and tundras may appear pristine from above, but vital species may have disappeared from the ground, according to experts in the scientific publication Frontiers in Forests and Global Change.
One of these vital species is the elephants that spread seeds and open up important areas in forests, and another is the wolves that keep the deer population in check.
The new review combines maps showing the damage caused by human activity to their habitat, with maps showing animals that have lost their original habitat and are too few for a healthy ecosystem.
‘IT MAY UP TO 20 PERCENT’
Experts stated that by replacing a small number of animals such as elephants and wolves in some damaged areas, ecologically unspoiled areas could be increased to 20 percent.
Dr. Andrew Plumptre is the lead author of the study. “Species disappeared because they were hunted by humans or lost by invading species or diseases in what we consider to be intact habitat. It’s scary because it shows the state of exceptional places like the Serengeti,” Plumptre said.
Plumptre also emphasized that the proportion of ecologically pristine places could be increased to 20 percent by re-releasing certain species to places where human impact is still low and solving problems for their survival.