Earth from space
Half the planet should be set aside for wildlife, renowned scientist says   Nasa

World-renowned biologist E O Wilson has said half of the world should be set aside solely for the use of wildlife in order to prevent a mass extinction event.

The two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning scientist called his theory 'Half Earth', and said by withdrawing from half of the planet, humans could help prevent the "biological holocaust" we are currently heading for.

Speaking to the Smithsonian Magazine, he said: "It's been in my mind for years, that people haven't been thinking big enough—even conservationists. Half Earth is the goal, but it's how we get there, and whether we can come up with a system of wild landscapes we can hang onto.

"I see a chain of uninterrupted corridors forming, with twists and turns, some of them opening up to become wide enough to accommodate national biodiversity parks, a new kind of park that won't let species vanish."

Wilson pointed to one initiative known as Yellowstone to Yukon, which allows life to move north as the planet warms, while other corridors that run east to west will allow wildlife to migrate away from the west, where less rain is expected over coming decades.

tiger
Destruction of habitat and poaching have pushed tigers to the brink of extinction Dan Eaglesham

He explained that once these corridors are established, "you'll be so surrounded, so enveloped by connected corridors that you'll almost never not be in a national park, or at any rate in a landscape that leads to a national park".

Wilson said that linking up national parks and wildlife reserves will protect entire faunas and floras from extinction.

His Half Earth theory follows his now widely accepted theory of island biogeography, which explains why confined landscapes and national parks all inevitably lose species.

Speaking in 2012, following the publication of The Social Conquest of Earth, Wilson told Smithsonian Magazine that he believes mankind can change from "conquerors to stewards" in terms of protection of the planet.

"We have the intellectual and moral capacity to do it, but I've also felt very strongly that we needed a much better understanding of who we are and where we came from. We need answers to those questions in order to get our bearings toward a successful long-term future, that means a future for ourselves, our species and for the rest of life," he said.

"In writing A Social Conquest of Earth, I very much had in mind that need for self-understanding, and I thought we were very far short, and we remain very far short, of self-understanding. We have a kind of resistance toward honest self-understanding as a species and I think that resistance is due in part to our genetic history. And now, can we overcome it? I think so."