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: Fish found in suspected tsunami debris boat quarantined

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

Fish found in suspected tsunami debris boat quarantined

12 hours ago

The wreckage of a fishing boat that appears to be debris from the 2011 Japanese tsunami was carrying some unexpected passengers—fish from Japanese waters—when it was spotted off the Oregon coast.

Roadkill hot spots identified in California

18 hours ago

An interactive map shows how California's state highway system is strewn with roadkill "hot spots," which are identified in a newly released report by the Road Ecology Center at the University of California, Da ...

Tagging and scanning for feral pigs

20 hours ago

Innovative research using GPS tracking and thermal imagery is being used in an attempt to manage the destructive behaviour of feral pigs in the south-west.

Mexico boosts protection of near-extinct porpoise

Apr 17, 2015

Mexico is greatly expanding a protected area of the Gulf of California and boosting navy patrols in an effort to save the vaquita marina, a small porpoise facing imminent extinction.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.