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Researchers tried to find one pristine spot untouched by humans. Failed

Don't bother trying to find any wilderness anymore

Researchers tried to find one pristine spot untouched by humans. Failed
08 June 2016

It's official guys: we've ruined everything.

If you'd clung onto the hope that, despite human beings numbering 7.4bn and counting, that we hadn't managed to completely infect the delicate, beautiful planet we inhabit, then prepare to be disappointed.

Researchers at the University of Oxford attempted to locate one pristine location on the Earth - perhaps in Antarctica, or a remote forest untouched by human influence - and failed.

In a paper published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the United States of America (PNAS), they describe, in the snappily-titled Ecological consequences of human niche construction: Examining long-term anthropogenic shaping of global species distributions how: "“Pristine” landscapes simply do not exist and, in most cases, have not existed for millennia."

Researchers studied the archaeological record, microfossils and ancient DNA, creating a huge statistical model of changes in plant growth. They discovered that, unsurprisingly, the Industrial Revolution was the big tipping point for the world, with human impact relatively localised beforehand. However, as technology grew, our ability to affect the environment (usually negatively) grew with it. Even in ancient forests where humans had not directly set foot, the landscape was still 'touched' by humanity, in the form of crops which humans had grown, migrating and overtaking the area.

They write that, "Extinction has been the starkest of these anthropogenic impacts, but widespread changes to species abundance, composition, community structure, richness, and genetic diversity as a result of human niche construction are also increasingly demonstrable and of equally lasting impact."

Still, we can at least console ourselves with the likelihood that we're going to cook ourselves to death as global warming marches on over the next century - so alien visitors in the near future won't even know we've been here at all. So that's something isn't it?

(Image: Rex)