Danielle Wood quoted in an article in Science magazine — MIT Media Lab

Danielle Wood was quoted in Elizabeth Pennisi’s article in Science Magazine: “Only 19% of Earth’s land is still ‘wild,’ according to analysis.”

Since the 1960s, conservationists have had a standard solution to save biodiversity: protect natural areas from human influence. But a new analysis of Earth’s land use dating back 12,000 years suggests that even in the days of mammoths and giant sloths, only a quarter of the planet was untouched by humans, compared to 19% today. Because some of these inhabited areas are now biodiversity hotspots, people have likely helped maintain — and even increase — the diversity of other species for millennia, the authors write. The results also suggest that many traditional practices and indigenous peoples play a key role in preserving biodiversity.

The article “debunks an important myth” in conservation circles, says Danielle Wood, an aerospace engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who studies technology and international development but was not involved in the new work. By offering a long-term look at the impact of humans on the planet, the study reveals that it is not people per se that send biodiversity into a downward spiral, but rather the overexploitation of resources , she explains. If their practices are sustainable, “humans don’t have to be suppressed” to save the world’s species.

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