Protected Areas Benefit A Broad Range Of Species

Despite doubt over their management effectiveness, the world’s protected areas do benefit a broad range of species a collaborative study published in Nature Communications has found.

The study, the largest to date of globally protected areas,  was carried out by the University of Sussex, the Natural History Museum and the UNEP’s  World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

 

Using a new global biodiversity database with unprecedented geographic and taxonomic coverage (the PREDICTS database), scientists analysed biodiversity samples taken from 1,939 sites inside and 4,592 sites outside 359 protected areas.

 

Samples from protected sites contained 15 percent more individuals and 11 percent more species compared to samples from unprotected sites, they found.

 

“We have been able to show for the first-time how protection effects thousands of species, including plants, mammals, birds and insects. This has provided us with important insights into these areas – which previous studies were not able to do,” Co-lead author of the study, Dr Claudia Gray, from the University of Sussex, said.

 

“Previously, regional or global studies of protected areas have mostly used information from satellite photos, to look at changes in forest cover. Instead, we used a particularly exciting new dataset, which brings together information collected on the ground by hundreds of scientists all over the world.”

 

From the study, scientists also discovered protection is most effective when human use of land for crops, pasture and plantations is minimised. The results suggest that better management across the existing protected area network could more than double its effectiveness.

 

“Protected areas are widely considered essential for biodiversity conservation, but our results show for the first-time that they do actually benefit a wide range of species,” Dr Jörn Scharlemann, from the University of Sussex, said

 

“Our results reinforce recent commitments by governments for increased support and recognition of the importance of protected areas worldwide.”

 

Prof Andy Purvis, one of the paper’s authors from the Natural History Museum, said: “This study shows how important questions in conservation biology can be tackled by joining forces. Hundreds of scientists from dozens of countries have generously shared their hard-earned data with us. Each one of those data sets is like a piece of a jigsaw: the overall picture only becomes clear when you have all the pieces and can put them together.”

 

Dr Samantha Hill from the UN Environment Programme’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre, said: “Humanity faces difficult decisions as to how best to protect biodiversity while providing for the needs of our ever-growing population. This study provides new understanding into the biodiversity found at the intersection of protected areas and human land-uses.

 

Source: University of Sussex 

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