Countries around the world have been designating wildlife areas as protected areas more than ever but a new study has just revealed that wildlife reserves are not nearly protected as we have been led to believe.
In a paper published in Science, it was revealed that a third of the world’s protected areas are actually being degraded by human activities.
The study found that while lots of countries are quick to create protected areas, very few countries follow up with funding and enforcement. As a result, 2.3 million square miles (6 million square kilometers) of forests, parks and conservation areas are under “intense human pressure” from mining, logging and farming.
Since the Convention on Biological Diversity was ratified in 1992, areas under protection have doubled in size and now amount to almost 15% of the lands and 8% of the oceans.
Kendall Jones, who led the research said, “A well-run protected area network is essential in saving species. If we allow our protected area network to be degraded there is a no doubt biodiversity losses will be exacerbated.”
These projects were not limited to one part of the world but seen in parks on every continent, with only 10 percent of areas assessed free from any human impact.
The one important thing to note is that this paper is not suggesting protected zones are not effective. In general, when areas are designated and properly protected, they have been wildly successful.
A study that came out a few years ago showed unequivocally that the biodiversity within protected areas was significantly higher than it was outside the protected areas. The researchers found that the number of individual plants and animals was around 15 percent higher, while the number of species was an impressive 11 percent higher in 1,939 protected areas around the planet.
The study also found that it was not the presence of a park that led to the increase in biodiversity, but how the areas were managed. Combing the two studies points to an major problem we have with our current protected areas and looking at increasing the total amount of protected land. Currently, there is a target goal of increasing the overall area of protected land to 17 percent by 2020.
“We know protected areas work – when well-funded, well-managed and well-placed, they are extremely effective in halting the threats that cause biodiversity loss and ensure species return from the brink of extinction,” explained Professor James Watson, senior author of the latest paper.
“There are also many protected areas that are still in good condition and protect the last strongholds of endangered species worldwide,” Watson continued. “The challenge is to improve the management of those protected areas that are most valuable for nature conservation to ensure they safeguard it.”