March 21, 2014

--For immediate release--

Scientists: Roads imperil world’s last wildernesses

Roads are rapidly imperiling the world’s last surviving wildernesses, says an international scientific group. 

“It’s reached crisis proportions,” said William Laurance, a professor at James Cook University in Australia and director of ALERT, the Alliance of Leading Environmental Researchers and Thinkers.

“Whether you’re talking about the Amazon, Sumatra, Siberia or the Congo, there’s hardly a wilderness area left that isn’t under assault from new roads,” said Laurance. “Those roads usually open a Pandora’s Box of environmental problems—such as illegal fires, deforestation, hunting and gold mining.”

The scientific group chose today, March 21, to highlight this growing concern because it is the International Day of Forests.

“It’s become one of the biggest environmental worries of this century,” said Thomas Lovejoy, a renowned ecologist and former environmental advisor to three U.S. presidents. “Roads are driving a great deal of habitat loss and fragmentation around the world.”

“It’s been estimated that we’ll have another 25 million kilometers of paved roads by 2050—enough to encircle the Earth more than 600 times,” said Lovejoy.

“Once a new road goes in, that’s often the beginning of the end,” said Corey Bradshaw, a professor at the University of Adelaide. “The only way to ensure the survival of wilderness and biodiversity is to keep roads out altogether—by avoiding the first cut.”

The scientists recognize that roads are important for economic development, but argue that roads in wilderness areas cause far more environmental damage than many people realize. 

“When it comes to wilderness, there’s a simple take-home message,” said Laurance. “Roads are the enemy of nature.”

For further information:

Distinguished Professor William Laurance
James Cook University, Cairns, Australia
Phone: 07-4038-1518 (+61-7-4038-1518 internationally)

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