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Wildlife Doesn’t Always Benefit from Protected Areas, as per a Global Study

The study, which was published today in the journal Nature, has significant implications for the movement to protect 30% of the Earth for wildlife by the end of the decade, according to the researchers. The findings show that park management is critical for protecting species and their habitats and that parks that lack such management are more likely to be ineffective.

Shivam Dwivedi
Beautiful Picture of Wildlife
Beautiful Picture of Wildlife

According to the largest ever global study of their effects, national parks, and other protected areas have had mixed success in conserving wildlife. The success of wetland birds in national parks and other reserves is dependent on species-specific management, as per research.

Scientists analyzed the trends of more than 27,000 populations of wetland birds using data from 1,506 protected areas around the world and discovered that increased provision for the birds had not necessarily helped.

The study, which was published today in the journal Nature, has significant implications for the movement to protect 30% of the Earth for wildlife by the end of the decade, according to the researchers. The findings show that park management is critical for protecting species and their habitats and that parks that lack such management are more likely to be ineffective.

Findings of Study:

"We know that protected areas can help prevent habitat loss, particularly deforestation," said lead author Dr. Hannah Wauchope of Exeter University's Centre for Ecology and Conservation. "However, we know a lot less about how protected areas help wildlife. Our research shows that while many protected areas are effective, many others are not. We need to put a greater emphasis on ensuring that areas are well-managed in order to benefit biodiversity."

Governments are currently negotiating biodiversity targets for the coming decade, with dozens of countries agreeing to protect 30% of land and sea by 2030. Despite the fact that this study only looked at waterbirds, scientists say their abundance, ability to colonize and leave locations quickly, and the quality of their habitat are all important factors. They were a good proxy for other wildlife because of the data.

In 68 countries, scientists compared waterbird population trends before and after protected areas were established, as well as the trends of similar waterbird populations inside and outside protected areas. Many of the data points were gathered by volunteers.

"There are big pushes backed by the likes of Emmanuel Macron, Boris Johnson, and others to expand protected areas to cover 30 percent of the planet by 2030," said co-author Julia Jones, a professor at Bangor University. But it's critical to know whether these protected areas actually deliver.

"Only a few studies have looked at whether protected areas can effectively slow or reverse population declines. It appears to be simple, but it is actually quite difficult to accomplish. This analysis provides really useful indications of how conservation can be improved to deliver better results for species," she added.

Waterbirds are a good example of a group facing the consequences of human behaviours that drive biodiversity loss, according to Thomas Brooks, chief scientist at the International Union for Conservation of Nature, who was not involved with the research.

Waterbirds are found all over the world. They are highly migratory and breed at high latitudes, in Arctic tundra and wetlands, as well as throughout the rest of the world.

"They are subjected to a variety of pressures at various stages of their lives, including the effects of unsustainable harvesting and climate change," he explained. He went on to say that the research had significant implications for conservation management.

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