Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Growing Threats to Biodiversity 'Arks'

Wildlife Conservation Society

Many of the world’s tropical protected areas are struggling to sustain their biodiversity, according to a new study published in Nature by more than 200 scientists from around the world.

Professor William Laurance, from James Cook University in Cairns, Australia, and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, said: “These reserves are like arks for biodiversity. But some of the arks are in danger of sinking, even though they are our best hope to sustain tropical forests and their amazing biodiversity in perpetuity.”

Laurance and his team—including several contributors from the Wildlife Conservation Society—studied more than 30 different categories of species—from trees and butterflies to primates and large predators—within protected areas across the tropical Americas, Africa and Asia-Pacific.

They estimated how these groups had changed in numbers over the past two to three decades, while identifying environmental changes that might threaten the reserves.

Laurance said their conclusion was that while most reserves were helping to protect their forests, about half were struggling to sustain their original biodiversity.

“The scariest thing about our findings is just how widespread the declines of species are in the suffering reserves,” said Carolina Useche of the Humboldt Institute in Colombia. “It’s not just a few groups that are hurting, but an alarmingly wide array of species.”

These included big predators and other large-bodied animals, many primates, old-growth trees and stream-dwelling fish and amphibians, among others.

The researchers found that reserves that were suffering most were those that were poorly protected and suffered encroachment from illegal colonists, hunters and loggers.

“Maintaining high quality buffer zones seems to be as essential to preserving park biodiversity as maintaining the parks themselves, so the moral is clear—protect the forests and the wildlife both inside and outside the reserves or risk losing them,” said Dr. Fiona Maisels of the Wildlife Conservation Society. “Park staff who patrol these wild places are critical for conserving the biodiversity they contain.”

Dr. Kadiri Serge Bobo of the University of Dschang in Cameroon, Africa, emphasized the growing external threats to tropical protected areas. “Eighty-five percent of the reserves we studied lost some nearby forest cover over the past two to three decades,” said Bobo. “But only two percent saw an increase in surrounding forest.”

Deforestation is advancing rapidly in tropical nations and most reserves are losing some or all of their surrounding forest.

The team found many nature reserves acted like mirrors—partially reflecting the threats and changes in their surrounding landscapes.

“For example, if a park has a lot of fires and illegal mining around it, those same threats can also penetrate inside it, to some degree,” Useche said.

The bottom line, the researchers say, is that a better job needs to be done in protecting the protected areas—and that means fighting both their internal and external threats, and building support for protected areas among local communities. Such efforts will help ensure protected areas are more resilient to future threats such as climate change.

“We have no choice,” said Laurance. “Tropical forests are the biologically richest real estate on the planet, and a lot of that biodiversity will vanish without good protected areas.”

Visit EcoWatch's BIODIVERSITY page for more related news on this topic.

 

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Critics charge the legislation induces poor communities to sell off their water rights. Pexels

By Eoin Higgins

Over 300 groups on Monday urged Senate leadership to reject a bill currently under consideration that would incentivize communities to sell off their public water supplies to private companies for pennies on the dollar.

Read More Show Less
People enjoy outdoor dining along Pier Ave. in Hermosa Beach, California on July 8, 2020. Keith Birmingham / MediaNews Group / Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images

California is reversing its reopening plans amidst a surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.

Read More Show Less
A protest against the name of the Washington Redskins in Minneapolis, Minnesota on Nov. 2, 2014. Fibonacci Blue / CC BY 2.0

The Washington Redskins will retire their controversial name and logo, the National Football League (NFL) team announced Monday.

Read More Show Less
The survival tools northern fish have used for millennia could be a disadvantage as environmental conditions warm and more fast-paced species move in. Istvan Banyai / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 3.0

By Alyssa Murdoch, Chrystal Mantyka-Pringle and Sapna Sharma

Summer has finally arrived in the northern reaches of Canada and Alaska, liberating hundreds of thousands of northern stream fish from their wintering habitats.

Read More Show Less
A mother walks her children through a fountain on a warm summer day on July 12, 2020 in Hoboken, New Jersey. Gary Hershorn / Getty Images

A heat wave that set in over the South and Southwest left much of the U.S. blanketed in record-breaking triple digit temperatures over the weekend. The widespread and intense heat wave will last for weeks, making the magnitude and duration of its heat impressive, according to The Washington Post.

Read More Show Less
If you get a call from a number you don't recognize, don't hit decline — it might be a contact tracer calling to let you know that someone you've been near has tested positive for the coronavirus. blackCAT / Getty Images

By Joni Sweet

If you get a call from a number you don't recognize, don't hit decline — it might be a contact tracer calling to let you know that someone you've been near has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Aerial view of burnt areas of the Amazon rainforest, near Porto Velho, Rondonia state, Brazil, on Aug. 24, 2019. CARLOS FABAL / AFP via Getty Images

NASA scientists say that warmer than average surface sea temperatures in the North Atlantic raise the concern for a more active hurricane season, as well as for wildfires in the Amazon thousands of miles away, according to Newsweek.

Read More Show Less