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This remote, isolated island is teeming with biodiversity — all thanks to the 2 people who care for it full-time

The minimized human footprint on the island has been wildly successful in protecting the diversity of the island.

Looe island is teeming with biodiversity

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Uninhabited islands may be something out of a "Survivor" episode, but one island off the coast of the UK's Cornwall is making headlines for a different reason. Looe Island is home to rich biodiversity, untouched landscapes, and only two people caring for it. 

What is it?

Looe Island, or St. George's Island, is located only a mile from the seaside town of Looe. Although its circumference is only a mile, it's home to many species of butterflies, jellyfish, birds, and a garden full of kiwi and yams. 

The island has been protected under the Cornwall Wildlife Trust since 2004 and is relatively shielded from the pressures of development and human interference. 

"We've tried to manage the land so that everything can go through its lifecycle, whether it's an insect, flower, or bird," Claire Lewis, one of the only caretakers on the island for the past 20 years, told The Guardian

Why is the island significant?

The island has managed to reduce the environmental impact of tourists and outsiders, specifically. 

"The more people you have to stay longer, the more likely there will be disturbance," Lewis noted, according to The Guardian

The minimized human footprint on the island has been wildly successful in protecting the diversity of the island. Its distance away from the mainland also provides some buffer from spills, pollution, and chemicals. 

The island's stewards have also successfully limited the influence of outside species on the island. Besides introducing some sheep to control the scrubland and the removal of some Russian vines, the same species have remained on the island for the past decades. This "positive management" strategy has successfully kept the island's biodiversity intact — and may act as a case study for other management schemes. 

How does the island help with biodiversity? 

Biodiversity has seen a precipitous decline globally due to habitat loss, the changing climate, and invasive species. One million of the eight million species globally are threatened with extinction over the next few decades, which suggests a need for more comprehensive biodiversity management strategies. 

Looe Island is indicative of one biodiversity management strategy: separating humans from natural spaces. This idea was first popularized by biologist E.O. Wilson, who believed half of the Earth should be set aside for nature preserves. Preserving half of the Earth, both on land and water, could theoretically save up to 80% of species from extinction. On a current trajectory of 10%, the Earth would be set to lose 50% of its biodiversity. 

Although the "half-Earth" theory is a compelling concept, it assumes that creating entirely "wild" space is possible. In the case of Looe Island, even this is not guaranteed. 

"I think we're far enough away for [the mainland] to not have a huge impact, but we can't control everything," Lewis said

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