Whale swimming - photo by Guille Pozzi - photo by Guille Pozzi

Biodiversity Continues to Decrease

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OLDENDORF, Germany — A new study, published in Marine Ecology Progress Series on July 28, shows that while protected areas are increasing throughout the world, they are not adequate to stymie the loss of biodiversity.

According to Protected Planet and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, there are over 161,000 Protected Areas – 13 percent of the of the world’s land and 1.3 percent of the water area. Human activities, however, affect approximately 83 percent of the land and the entire ocean.

In their study, “Ongoing global biodiversity loss and the need to move beyond protected areas,” authors Camilo Mora and Peter F. Sale explore the disconnect between the desire to save wild places – illustrated by the popularity of preserving areas of rainforests, coral reefs, wetlands, and various other habitats throughout the world – and the actual effects Protected Areas, or PAs, have on the preservation of diversity.

While the amount of land preserved worldwide increased in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, the study found that biodiversity continued to decline rapidly during the same time period. Many PAs are too small to be sustainable; the limited resources inside are protected, but the surrounding habitats continue to break down. This isolation can lead to inbreeding and destroy the very biodiversity PAs intend to protect, increasing the threat of extinction for many species

Mora and Sale continue to say that “PAs need to be sufficiently large to accommodate species’ home ranges and complemented with dispersal corridors to ensure population connectivity and the viability of populations.” All too often, the study argues, they are not.

The United Nations has long held that biodiversity has immense economic value: as much as $33 trillion annually is gleaned from nature in areas such as recreation, agriculture, pollution mitigation and pharmaceuticals. These values are largely dependent upon a healthy ecosystem.

Severe lack of funding and infrastructure are certainly factors when establishing and maintaining protected areas. According to Mora and Sale, however, there are four additional threats that monopolize management strategies: agricultural overuse, invasive species, climate change and “human appropriation of sites to fill other societal requirements.” Each of these can have devastating consequences to small, isolated PAs and to those that are not efficiently managed.

“It is clear from the on-going loss of biodiversity,” state Mora and Sale, “that current conservation efforts, whether through PAs alone or in combination with other approaches, are not coping with the challenge.” So how do we increase protection for at-risk ecosystems?

The study argues that only through a “concerted global effort to stabilize human population growth, reduce consumption and increase the Earth’s biocapacity” can humans begin to achieve sustainability.

To read the entire report, visit:

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