Quantcast

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

(L) 3D graphical representation of a spherical-shaped, measles virus particle that is studded with glycoprotein tubercles.
(R) The measles virus pictured under a microscope. PHIL / CDC

The Pacific Island nation of Samoa declared a state of emergency this week, closed all of its schools and limited the number of public gatherings allowed after a measles outbreak has swept across the country of just 200,000 people, according to Reuters.

Read More Show Less
Austin Nuñez is Chairman of the Tohono O'odham Nation, which joined with the Hopi and Pascua Yaqui Tribes to fight a proposed open-pit copper mine on sacred sites in Arizona. Mamta Popat

By Alison Cagle

Rising above the Arizona desert, the Santa Rita Mountains cradle 10,000 years of Indigenous history. The Tohono O'odham Nation, Pascua Yaqui Tribe, and Hopi Tribe, among numerous other tribes, have worshipped, foraged, hunted and laid their ancestors to rest in the mountains for generations.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
(L) Selma Three Stone Engagement Ring. (R) The Greener Diamond Farm Project. MiaDonna

By Bailey Hopp

If you had to choose a diamond for your engagement ring from below or above the ground, which would you pick … and why would you pick it? This is the main question consumers are facing when picking out their diamond engagement ring today. With a dramatic increase in demand for conflict-free lab-grown diamonds, the diamond industry is shifting right before our eyes.

Read More Show Less
The Navajo Nation has suffered from limited freshwater resources as a result of climate, insufficient infrastructure, and contamination. They collaborated with NASA to develop the Drought Severity Evaluation Tool. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Native Americans are disproportionately without access to clean water, according to a new report, "Closing the Water Access Gap in the United States: A National Action Plan," to be released this afternoon, which shows that more than two million Americans do not have access to access to running water, indoor plumbing or wastewater services.

Read More Show Less
Wild Exmoor ponies graze on a meadow in the Czech Republic. rapier / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Nanticha Ocharoenchai

In the Czech Republic, horses have become the knights in shining armor. A study published in the Journal for Nature Conservation suggests that returning feral horses to grasslands in Podyjí National Park could help boost the numbers of several threatened butterfly species.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

Despite huge strides in improving the lives of children since 1989, many of the world's poorest are being left behind, the United Nations children's fund UNICEF warned Monday.

Read More Show Less
At least seven people have died in a Bangladesh pipeline explosion. Youtube screenshot

At least seven people were killed when a gas pipeline exploded in Bangladesh Sunday, and another 25 were injured, the Associated Press reported.

Read More Show Less
The Shell Puget Sound Refinery in Anacortes, Washington. John Westrock / Flickr

The Washington Department of Ecology responded to an oil spill that took place Friday night when a Crowley Maritime Barge was transferring five million gallons of oil to the Shell Puget Sound Refinery, CNN reported.

Read More Show Less