1. Home
  2. Agriculture World

Study Reveals Urgent Need to Strengthen Protection of Existing Parks for Biodiversity Conservation

Expanding the network of protected areas can be advantageous for species that currently do not have sufficient protection for their habitats.

Shivam Dwivedi
Study Reveals Urgent Need to Strengthen Protection of Existing Parks for Biodiversity Conservation (Photo Credit- @Dhudhva Tiger Reserve)
Study Reveals Urgent Need to Strengthen Protection of Existing Parks for Biodiversity Conservation (Photo Credit- @Dhudhva Tiger Reserve)

A recent study conducted by bio-scientists from Durham University, the National University of Singapore (NUS), and Princeton University highlights the significance of reinforcing the protection of areas that are already safeguarded under law or by local communities. The researchers argue that this measure is equally important for preserving biodiversity as creating new protected areas.

The study, published in the journal Science Advances, analysed approximately 5,000 species and revealed that nearly 70% of them lack sufficient representation in protected areas. Some species exist in protected areas that have experienced downgrading, downsizing, or de-gazettement, while others face vulnerability to extinction due to future land-use changes. However, the research team suggests that by enhancing the protection of existing protected areas and expanding the park networks by a mere 1% of the planet's land area, it is possible to preserve the essential habitats of 1,191 animal species that are particularly at risk of extinction.

Protected areas can be susceptible to detrimental human activities when enforcement is inadequate or when there is insufficient political support for wildlife conservation. The effectiveness of parks in safeguarding species diminishes when they undergo downgrading, downsizing, or de-gazettement (PADDD) events. These events occur when governments decide to reduce the legal protections governing a park, thereby diminishing the level or extent of protection provided.

Such changes can lead to forest clearance for infrastructure expansion, mining operations, or other activities, resulting in the loss or degradation of habitats. The researchers discovered that as of 2021, over 278 million hectares of parks worldwide have been cumulatively subjected to PADDD events.

For instance, the critically endangered Megophrys damrei frog, found exclusively in Cambodia, faces habitat degradation and loss within its protected area boundaries and adjacent surroundings, despite being protected by law. Furthermore, expanding the network of protected areas can benefit species whose habitats currently lack adequate protection. The study identifies that safeguarding an additional 330 square kilometers of natural landscapes within Indonesia would preserve suitable habitats for 53 species that currently lack protected area coverage and have limited habitat areas.

An example of such a species is the Sangihe golden bulbul, a critically endangered songbird exclusively found on Sangihe Island in Indonesia. With an estimated population of only 50 to 230 individuals remaining at one unprotected site, this species avoids plantations, indicating its reliance on intact forests. Enhanced conservation efforts would greatly benefit this sensitive species.

Dr. Rebecca Senior from Durham University reflected on the research findings, emphasizing that ongoing efforts and vigilance are necessary to protect species. She highlighted that it is insufficient to merely designate parks on paper; instead, they must be strategically located, properly managed, and endure over time. According to Dr. Zeng Yiwen of NUS, the lead author of the study, the research establishes a geography of arks, indicating where new parks can be created and where existing parks can be restored and reinforced to enhance wildlife conservation.

While global discussions on conservation often focus on the creation of new protected areas, such as the target of protecting 30% of the planet's lands and seas adopted at the COP15 United Nations biodiversity conference in December 2022, this study underscores the importance of ensuring the long-term effectiveness of existing protected areas in mitigating harmful human activities.

The findings contribute to the growing recognition of the need to conserve biodiversity and emphasize the critical role of maintaining and reinforcing already protected areas as safe havens for wildlife.

(Source: Durham University)

Take a Quiz on Green Revolution Take a quiz
Share your comments
FactCheck in Agriculture Project

Subscribe to our Newsletter. You choose the topics of your interest and we'll send you handpicked news and latest updates based on your choice.

Subscribe Newsletters