Human Impact on Environment Some Good and Not So Good News
Prince George, B.C. – The global impact of human activities on the natural environment is extensive, but those impacts are expanding at a slower rate than the rate of economic and population growth.
That is one of the key findings of a team of researchers from UNBC, the University of Queensland, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), and six other universities.
The team developed a map which shows 75% of the planet has been significantly altered by human activity, and 97% of the most species-rich places on Earth have been seriously altered.
The original human footprint map was created in 1993 says Dr. Oscar Venter of UNBC, one of the co-authors of the map, “We created two maps, one for present day (2009) and one for 1993 so we can look at trajectories and see how things have changed over the last two decades and learn from that.”
Dr. Venter UNBC says there is some encouraging news in that human impacts are expanding at a rate slower than the rates of economic and population growth “it means we are becoming more efficient in how we use natural resources.”
In developing the map, Dr. Venter says they looked at a “range of human pressures on the environment”.
- he extent of built environments,
- crop land,
- pasture land,
- human population density,
- night-time lights,
- roads, and
- navigable waterways
Dr. Venter says the map has produced mixed results “It’s encouraging in that we saw a number of countries grow their economies quite a lot over the last 20 years, while actually shrinking the impact they are having on the environment. So it appears it is possible to de-couple economic growth, which is something everybody wants, from environmental impacts which is something many people don’t want. That was a positive finding for us. On the other hand there were a number of negative findings that were negative. Almost everywhere on the planet, most eco-systems on the planet have deteriorated over the last 20 years. Additionally, if we look at the most species rich part of the planet, there were very few of those places that remain in a natural unmodified condition. Only 3% of them were still natural.” Dr. Venter says that is quite concerning to him .
Looking at specific areas on the planet, Dr. Venter says Canada overall, looks ok “We are a very big country without a very large population, and a lot of the population is concentrated in cities. But that said, there were some important things we didn’t manage to map on a global scale and one of them was mining, and the other was forestry because industry specific data was not available on a global scale, so we might have been underestimating some of the impacts we are having in northern Canada and Northern B.C.”
The work is far from over says Dr. Venter “something I am looking forward to doing since I moved to UNBC is to undertake this sort of work on a scale of Canada, or potentially the scale of British Columbia, developing a map of the footprint, including the footprint of important industries, for our region.”