The Wilderness Continuum Concept and Its Application in Australia: Lessons for Modern Conservation



Wilderness is relative; it occupies parts of a spectrum of environmental modification ranging from synthetic high-input urban and agricultural systems through to environments with minimal human interference (Lesslie RG, Taylor BG, Biol Conserv 32:309–333, 1985). This chapter considers the wilderness continuum concept which accounts for the degree to which a place is remote from and undisturbed by the influences of modern technological society, accepting that there are no absolutely inaccessible and undisturbed areas remaining on earth. The focus of the wilderness continuum concept on degrees of remoteness and naturalness in the landscape contributes to our understanding of how modern conservation landscapes can be created, including the role of larger and more intact natural areas. Discussion points to the need for comprehensive disturbance mapping and monitoring focused on patterns of land use, settlement and access across the landscape – as these represent key drivers of terrestrial environmental change. A review and discussion of Australian National Wilderness Inventory (ANWI), a wild land evaluation program conducted in Australia during the 1980s and 1990s (Lesslie RG, Maslen M, National wilderness inventory: handbook of procedures, content and usage, 2nd edn. Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, 1995), is provided. More recent environmental assessments that draw on the work of the ANWI are introduced. An updated global assessment of wilderness quality based on ANWI methods is presented.


Wilderness continuum Remoteness Naturalness Mapping Monitoring change Disturbance Modification Fragmentation Unmodified reference 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES)CanberraAustralia

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