AboutZoos, Since 2008


Pro­tected trop­i­cal areas suf­fer bio­di­ver­sity loss

pub­lished 26 July 2012 | mod­i­fied 23 March 2018

Many of the world’s trop­i­cal pro­tected areas are strug­gling to sus­tain their bio­di­ver­sity, accord­ing to a study by more than 200 sci­en­tists from around the world. But the study pub­lished in Nature includes research focus­ing on a reserve in Tan­za­nia by Uni­ver­sity of York sci­en­tists that indi­cates that long-​term engage­ment with con­ser­va­tion has pos­i­tive results.

Dr Andy Mar­shall, of the Envi­ron­ment Depart­ment at York and Direc­tor of Con­ser­va­tion Sci­ence at Flamingo Land, com­pared the data he col­lected in the Udzungwa moun­tains with data col­lected more than 20 years pre­vi­ously by Jon Lovett, for­merly of the Uni­ver­sity of York and now Pro­fes­sor of Global Chal­lenges at the Uni­ver­sity of Leeds. Con­ser­va­tion efforts in this bio­di­ver­sity hotspot have paid div­i­dends. It is one of the few sites that are rel­a­tively unchanged from a bio­di­ver­sity point of view.

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

Pro­fes­sor William Lau­rance, lead-​author, James Cook Uni­ver­sity in Cairns, Aus­tralia, and the Smith­son­ian Trop­i­cal Research Insti­tute in Panama

Pro­fes­sor Lau­rance and his team stud­ied more than 30 dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories of species — from trees and but­ter­flies to pri­mates and large preda­tors — in 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.

Red colobusIn Udzungwa, more than 20 years ago, the for­est was being heav­ily logged but now the area had been des­ig­nated a national park. Dr Mar­shall said: “Our find­ings indi­cate that con­certed engage­ment with con­ser­va­tion in Udzungwa has had a pos­i­tive effect in mit­i­gat­ing the impact of human activ­ity on bio­di­ver­sity.” Pro­fes­sor Lovett added: “We were able to make a good assess­ment of the con­di­tion of the reserve because Andy Mar­shall was able to fol­low up my work from the mid-​1980s. The com­par­i­son showed that long term engage­ment with con­ser­va­tion has pos­i­tive results.”

Else­where, the pic­ture is more wor­ry­ing with many reserves suf­fer­ing a decline in a wide array of species, includ­ing 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. 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.

We have no choice, trop­i­cal forests are the bio­log­i­cally rich­est real estate on the planet, and a lot of that bio­di­ver­sity will van­ish with­out good pro­tected areas

William Lau­rance

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.

The research was sup­ported by James Cook Uni­ver­sity, the Smith­son­ian Trop­i­cal Research Insti­tute, the Aus­tralian Research Coun­cil and the National Sci­ence Foundation.

See also Nature’s Edi­to­r­ial “Pro­tect and Serve”.

The above news item is reprinted from mate­ri­als avail­able at The Uni­ver­sity of York via Alpha­Galileo. Orig­i­nal text may be edited for con­tent and length

(Source: The Uni­ver­sity of York, 25.07.2012)

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