A new study suggests the world’s forests are more fragmented than ever before. Analysis by researchers at North Carolina State University showed that if one were to be dropped randomly into one of the world’s many forests, there would be a 70 percent chance of being within a half-mile of the forest edge.
And if forests are fragmented, so are vital habitats. Researchers point out that development — whether urban, suburban or agricultural — continues to carve up forests, fields and wetlands, and the ecosystems they contain. A single road may not seem like much of an impediment to humans, but a two-lane stretch of pavement can sever a vulnerable piece of habitat.
To quantify habitat fragmentation, researchers at N.C. State used satellite imagery to build a map of global forest cover. Computer analysis showed that very few forests remain unaffected by human development.
“It’s no secret that the world’s forests are shrinking, so this study asked about the effects of this habitat loss and fragmentation on the remaining forests,” study author co-author Nick Haddad, a biologist at N.C. State, explained in a press release.
“The results were astounding. Nearly 20 percent of the world’s remaining forest is the distance of a football field — or about 100 meters — away from a forest edge,” Haddad said. “Seventy percent of forest lands are within a half-mile of a forest edge. That means almost no forest can really be considered wilderness.”