Above Picture: The Niassa Reserve in Mozambique is supposedly a protected area
Roads, farmers, loggers and house-builders are ruining at least one third of the world’s 200,000 protected areas, where nature is supposed to be flourishing.
The largest survey to date of human incursion into protected areas found that 32.8 per cent of protected land is under “intense human pressure”. The threatened protected areas cover 6 million square kilometres, an area twice that of Alaska.
“Governments are claiming these places are protected for the sake of nature, when in reality they aren’t,” says lead author James Watson of the University of Queensland in St Lucia and the Wildlife Conservation Society. “It is a major reason why biodiversity is still in catastrophic decline, despite more and more land being ‘protected’.”
Under the “Aichi targets” set by the Convention on Biological Diversity, launched at the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit in 1992, countries must turn 17 per cent of their land surface into protected areas by 2020. However, of 111 nations claiming to have done this, Watson found 74 have not. Those countries had allowed their protected areas to be heavily degraded through human incursion.
“Once the actual condition of the protected area was considered, most nations don’t come close,” says Watson.
Not treading lightly
Watson and his colleagues examined the human “footprint” on each protected area. Their data divides protected areas into squares 1 kilometre on the side, and within each square measures eight ways humans affect nature, such as roads, intensive farming and street lighting. For each square, they calculate an overall human footprint.
On average, protected areas had a human footprint about half the global average, but their footprints have been getting worse since 1992. The protected areas under most assault are in western Europe, southern Asia and Africa.
On the plus side, 42 per cent of protected land is almost free of human interference.
“They’re well resourced and have dedicated support from non-governmental organisations and government, but unfortunately, this is too rare a story,” says Watson.
“Establishing a new park is just the beginning,” says William Laurance of James Cook University in Cairns, Australia, who has studied the harm caused by indiscriminate road-building. “We have no choice but to go ‘all in’ for protected areas, as they’re the absolute cornerstone of our efforts to save Earth’s biodiversity.”
Journal reference: Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.aap9565
Join our list
Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting stuff and updates to your email inbox.
More from Environment
Japanese Education: 4-year-olds run on the subway alone, no one calls for child protection, students and teachers clean up in schools. Mothers teach small babies to RESPECT their fellows
From 3 years, children in Japan go unaccompanied to kindergarten. And from 4 years they are traveling by subway. In the Sunrise …
A concerted push is underway in South America that could see the Guarani Aquifer, one of the world’s largest reserves …
Stepping Up Let’s all welcome the European Union (EU) to the anti-plastic pollution movement. On Wednesday, EU lawmakers voted 571 to 53 in …