Received: 05 Jun 2012 – Accepted for review: 18 Jun 2012 – Discussion started: 25 Jun 2012
Abstract. Wilderness areas in the world are threatened by the environmental impacts of the growing global human population. This study estimates the impact of birth rate on the future surface area of biodiverse wilderness and on the proportion of this area without major extinctions. The following four drivers are considered: human population growth (1), agricultural efficiency (2), groundwater drawdown by irrigation (3), and non-agricultural space used by humans (buildings, gardens, roads, etc.) (4). This study indicates that the surface area of biodiverse unmanaged land will reduce with about 5.4% between 2012 and 2050. Further, it indicates that the biodiverse land without major extinctions will reduce with about 10.5%. These percentages are based on a commonly used population trajectory which assumes that birth rates across the globe will reduce in a similar way as has occurred in the past in many developed countries. Future birth rate is however very uncertain. Plausible future birth rates lower than the expected rates lead to much smaller reductions in surface area of biodiverse unmanaged land (0.7% as opposed to 5.4%), and a reduction in the biodiverse land without major extinctions of about 5.6% (as opposed to 10.5%). This indicates that birth rate is an important factor influencing the quality and quantity of wilderness remaining in the future.
How to cite: Dumont, E.: Estimated impact of global population growth on future wilderness extent, Earth Syst. Dynam. Discuss., 3, 433–452, https://doi.org/10.5194/esdd-3-433-2012, 2012.