Very large protected areas preserve wilderness but ignore rare species

Nov 01, 2010

Protected areas are generally seen as a triumph for the preservation of nature, yet the reality on the ground is more complex.

The world's largest protected areas encompass vast amounts of but do not extensively overlap the highest priority areas for conservation or include unusually large numbers of , amphibians, or , according to an analysis published in the November issue of BioScience.

The study, by Lisette Cantú-Salazar and Kevin J. Gaston of the University of Sheffield, United Kingdom, nonetheless describes anecdotal evidence that some very large protected areas play an important conservation role, by preserving natural species assemblages and populations of regional concern.

Cantú-Salazar and Gaston examined in detail the 63 protected areas that each extend over 25,000 square kilometers or more (about the area of Vermont). These huge areas are found in all continents except Antarctica, and are preferentially found in areas where there are few people. The findings thus seem to support the idea that such areas are created in places where they will least inconvenience people, rather than where they would do the most for conservation.

Yet very large protected areas are also likely to include particular land-cover types, such as snow and ice, bare areas, and areas with sparse vegetation. Examination of individual cases reveals that several ecoregions of high conservation priority are partly included in very large protected areas, including the Guianan Highlands Moist Forests, the Tibetan Plateau Steppe, and the Eastern Himalayan Alpine Meadows. Their preservation is therefore important. And many of the largest are vulnerable, Cantú-Salazar and Gaston conclude. Some have inadequate management. Others are threatened by incursions for logging, fishing, grazing, and mining, and the effects of climate change and political instability.

Explore further: France fights back Asian hornet invader

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

A changing climate for protected areas

Apr 02, 2007

On April 6, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will release a report entitled Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability that focuses on how climate change is affecting the planet.

Making protected areas pay biodiversity dividends

Mar 18, 2008

With human activity pushing more and more species to the brink of extinction--species abundance has declined by 40% between 1970 and 2000 alone--the need to protect biodiversity has never been more urgent. In a new essay ...

Recommended for you

France fights back Asian hornet invader

58 minutes ago

They slipped into southwest France 10 years ago in a pottery shipment from China and have since invaded more than half the country, which is fighting back with drones, poisoned rods and even chickens.

Tide turns for shark fin in China

1 hour ago

A sprawling market floor in Guangzhou was once a prime location for shark fin, one of China's most expensive delicacies. But now it lies deserted, thanks to a ban from official banquet tables and a celebrity-driven ...

Manatees could lose their endangered species status

13 hours ago

About 2,500 manatees have perished in Florida over the last four years, heightening tension between conservationists and property owners as federal officials prepare to decide whether to down-list the creature to threatened ...

User comments : 0