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Massive biodiversity database reveals the value of protected areas

Cara J

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After more than a century of setting aside protected areas such as wildlife refuges, conservationists can finally be confident that the approach helps wildlife. In the largest-ever analysis of biodiversity in protected areas, researchers found that protected sites had more diverse and abundant vertebrates, invertebrates, and plants than unprotected sites around the globe. “The most exciting and important finding is that protected areas actually do work,” said Jörn Scharlemann, an ecologist at the University of Sussex in England and one of the study’s authors. Vast efforts have gone into designating and maintaining natural areas such as national parks and nature reserves. Currently, these areas cover about 15.4 percent of Earth’s terrestrial surface, and the Convention on Biological Diversity — a multilateral treaty involving nearly 200 countries — aims to increase that figure to 17 percent by 2020. People have long assumed that such efforts provide a net ecological benefit, but until now, no comprehensive analysis has backed that up, says Scharlemann. Many researchers have examined small pieces of the puzzle by comparing particular types of organisms inside and outside of protected areas. But field surveys are hugely labor intensive, and no single research team can survey everything. Two meta-analyses have [...]


Read more: http://wildlife.org/massive-biodiversity-database-reveals-the-value-of-protected-areas/

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