To see the Earth's ecology forest for its trees, first we have to acknowledge there aren't many large, intact forests around. In fact, according to a new study published in Science Advances, there are only two such continuous forests left: in South America and Africa, Christian Science Monitor reports. "There are really only two big patches of intact forest left on Earth—the Amazon and the Congo—and they shine out like eyes from the center of the map," study leader Nick Haddad tells the New Yorker. The rest of the wooded areas on Earth are fragmented by everything from roads and man-made developments to natural events such as wildfires, the EPA notes. About 70% of the world's forested areas are situated within a half-mile of the actual forest edge, per the Monitor.
The result of so many fragmented habitats is "ruinous," notes the New Yorker. This study found that broken-up areas on average lose half their plant and animal species within two decades, the Monitor reports. "Once a forest disappears, the resulting area is more exposed and experiences greater extremes of temperature, humidity, and wind," co-author Douglas Levey tells the Monitor. To make things worse, Levey adds, intruding species find their way into the disrupted habitat as well. All is not doomed, though: Because fragmentation often happens very slowly, it's possible to reconnect forest "clumps" by planting linking trees, Levey says: "It's never too late to preserve what we already have." (The Amazon's biggest alleged "deforester" was recently arrested.)