Few things excite biologists more than contemplating the parts of the world still relatively free of human damage. For the last 30 years, scientists intent on protecting Earth’s biodiversity have sought to enshrine targets for preserving and expanding these remaining areas of wilderness.
But what actually is wilderness, and how do we know when we’ve found it? Most people would call anywhere that’s remote and with few human inhabitants wilderness, but for scientists, it’s more complicated. Most scientific definitions of wilderness centre on the concept of “intactness”. If the basic structure of a habitat, such as a forest, is intact and there is little evidence of human impact, then it is often considered wilderness.