AboutZoos, Since 2008


Largest ever study: glob­ally pro­tected areas ben­e­fit broad range of species!

pub­lished 04 August 2016 | mod­i­fied 04 August 2016

The world’s pro­tected areas do ben­e­fit a broad range of species — sci­en­tists from a col­lab­o­ra­tive research project led by the Uni­ver­sity of Sus­sex have dis­cov­ered for the first-​time.

The study, car­ried out by the Uni­ver­sity of Sus­sex work­ing together with the Nat­ural His­tory Museum and the UN Envi­ron­ment Pro­gramme (UNEP)‘s World Con­ser­va­tion Mon­i­tor­ing Cen­tre, is the largest ever analy­sis of glob­ally pro­tected areas. The paper was pub­lished on 28 July in Nature Communications.

Biodiversity study protected areas 2016This info­graphic shows the coun­tries in which the study took place and the pro­tected area sites.
Credit: Uni­ver­sity of Sussex.

By analysing bio­di­ver­sity sam­ples taken from 1,939 sites inside and 4,592 sites out­side 359 pro­tected areas, sci­en­tists have dis­cov­ered the pro­tected area sam­ples con­tain 15 per­cent more indi­vid­u­als and 11 per­cent more species com­pared to sam­ples from unpro­tected sites.

The research was car­ried out by using a new global bio­di­ver­sity data­base (the PRE­DICTS data­base) which con­tains data for approx­i­mately over one per­cent of all known species and spans 48 coun­tries and 101 ecore­gions — the most com­pre­hen­sive bio­di­ver­sity sam­ple of ter­res­trial pro­tected areas to ever be examined.

We have been able to show for the first-​time how pro­tec­tion effects thou­sands of species, includ­ing plants, mam­mals, birds and insects. This has pro­vided us with impor­tant insights into these areas — which pre­vi­ous stud­ies were not able to do.
Dr Clau­dia Gray, co-​lead author, Uni­ver­sity of Sussex »

Pre­vi­ously, regional or global stud­ies of pro­tected areas have mostly used infor­ma­tion from satel­lite pho­tos, to look at changes in for­est cover. Instead, we used a par­tic­u­larly excit­ing new dataset, which brings together infor­ma­tion col­lected on the ground by hun­dreds of sci­en­tists all over the world,” said Gray.

From the study, sci­en­tists also dis­cov­ered pro­tec­tion is most effec­tive when human use of land for crops, pas­ture and plan­ta­tions is min­imised. The results sug­gest that bet­ter man­age­ment across the exist­ing pro­tected area net­work could more than dou­ble its effectiveness.

Dr Jörn Scharle­mann, from the Uni­ver­sity of Sus­sex, said: “Pro­tected areas are widely con­sid­ered essen­tial for bio­di­ver­sity con­ser­va­tion, but our results show for the first-​time that they do actu­ally ben­e­fit a wide range of species. Our results rein­force recent com­mit­ments by gov­ern­ments for increased sup­port and recog­ni­tion of the impor­tance of pro­tected areas worldwide.”

We can­not deny the global impor­tance of these areas and we must ensure that gov­ern­ments across the world recog­nise their sig­nif­i­cance and work to improve their effec­tive­ness. Pro­tected areas do not cur­rently ben­e­fit all species — but what we have shown in our study is they have the poten­tial to help us con­serve some of the most bio­di­verse areas on Earth — which is why they vitally need increased global support.”

Prof Andy Purvis, one of the paper’s authors from the Nat­ural His­tory Museum, said: “This study shows how impor­tant ques­tions in con­ser­va­tion biol­ogy can be tack­led by join­ing forces. Hun­dreds of sci­en­tists from dozens of coun­tries have gen­er­ously shared their hard-​earned data with us. Each one of those data sets is like a piece of a jig­saw: the over­all pic­ture only becomes clear when you have all the pieces and can put them together.”

Dr Saman­tha Hill from the UNEP’s World Con­ser­va­tion Mon­i­tor­ing Cen­tre, said: “Human­ity faces dif­fi­cult deci­sions as to how best to pro­tect bio­di­ver­sity while pro­vid­ing for the needs of our ever-​growing pop­u­la­tion. This study pro­vides new under­stand­ing into the bio­di­ver­sity found at the inter­sec­tion of pro­tected areas and human land-​uses.

This research relied upon the data col­lated in the World Data­base on Pro­tected Areas (WDPA) — the most com­plete dataset detail­ing the world’s ter­res­trial and marine pro­tected areas. The WDPA is a joint prod­uct of the United Nations Envi­ron­ment Pro­gramme and the Inter­na­tional Union for Con­ser­va­tion of Nature (IUCN) and made publicly-​available by the UNEP-​World Con­ser­va­tion Mon­i­tor­ing Centre.”

(Source: Uni­ver­sity of Sus­sex press release, 28.08.2016)

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