Current estimates suggest that, by 2050, we'll have another 25 million kilometers of paved roads--enough to encircle the Earth more than 600 times. Around nine-tenths of those roads will be in developing nations, which sustain many of the planet's most biologically important ecosystems.
In wilderness areas, new roads often open a Pandora's Box of environmental problems--such as illegal deforestation, colonization, fires, hunting, and mining. In the Amazon, for instance, over 95% of all deforestation occurs within 50 kilometers of roads.
"When it comes to roads in wilderness, the key is to stop the first cut," said Laurance. "Keeping roads out is the only truly effective way to ensure wilderness will survive."