People have shaped most of terrestrial nature for at least 12,000 years

| July 25, 2021 | Leave a Comment

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Date of Publication: April 27

Year of Publication: 2021

Publication City: Washington, DC

Publisher: National Academy of Sciences

Author(s): Erle C. Ellis, Nicolas Gauthier, Kees Klein Goldewijk et. al.

Journal: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)

Volume: 118 (17)


The current biodiversity crisis is often depicted as a struggle to preserve untouched habitats. Here, we combine global maps of human populations and land use over the past 12,000 y with current biodiversity data to show that nearly three-quarters of terrestrial nature has long been shaped by diverse histories of human habitation and use by Indigenous and traditional peoples. With rare exceptions, current biodiversity losses are caused not by human conversion or degradation of untouched ecosystems, but rather by the appropriation, colonization, and intensification of use in lands inhabited and used by prior societies. Global land-use history confirms that empowering the environmental stewardship of Indigenous peoples and local communities will be critical to conserving biodiversity across the planet.

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