Biodiversity Preservation Efforts In Peril
July 26, 2012

Biodiversity Preservation Efforts Not Enough So Far

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

Nature preserves have been remarkably successful in maintaining the biodiversity within their borders, but some threats to the species that live there are making those borders obsolete.

A recent study published in Nature that included over 200 scientists from around the world found that many of these modern-day Noah´s Arks are facing a threat to their biodiversity through mismanagement and insufficient enforcement of preserve borders.

"Biodiversity is declining rapidly at reserves including Kahuzi Biega in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Xishuangbanna in southern China, and Northern Sierra Madre in the Philippines, among others," said co-author William Laurance, research associate at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. "Reserves that are doing relatively well include Bwindi Impenetrable N.P. in Uganda, Santa Rosa in Costa Rica, and Los Amigos in Peru."

In the study, Laurance surveyed scientists who study plant and animal life at reserves around the world and asked them to rate the success of the nature preserve where they have worked over the last two to three decades. They scored a reserve´s condition based on changes in population of 31 different groups from trees to large predators. Laurance´s colleagues were also asked to identify environmental changes that could endanger the reserves and their inhabitants.

One of the success stories noted in the study was the nature preserve located in the Udzungwa Mountains.

"Our findings indicate that concerted engagement with conservation in Udzungwa has had a positive effect in mitigating the impact of human activity on biodiversity,” said co-author Andy Marshall, of the University at York.

The data recently collected from that preserve was compared to data garnered by its former custodian Jon Lovett who is currently Professor of Global Challenges at the University of Leeds.

"We were able to make a good assessment of the condition of the reserve because Andy Marshall was able to follow up my work from the mid-1980s,” said Lovett. “The comparison showed that long term engagement with conservation has positive results.”

Other reserves recorded even greater measures of success. On the Barro Colorado Island research station in Panama, researchers reported slight increases in exotic animals and plants.

However, the activities of illegal hunters and loggers have led to more dire situations in other reserves. Many of these reserves are suffering a loss of species´ population, including primates, older trees, and stream-dwelling fish and amphibians.

The study also noted an increase in deforestation, either by natural and human causes, which is advancing rapidly in some tropical nations and their reserves. Deforestation problems illustrated how many nature reserves reflect the threats and changes in their surrounding nations, according to the study.

Researchers concluded that those responsible for conservation around the world must be more vigilant in their duties. They suggested building political support at both the local community level, the front lines of this endeavor, as well as at the national level. They added that ensuring the protection of these area also allows them to be more resilient to the results of climate change.

"We have no choice," said Laurance. "Tropical forests are the biologically richest real estate on the planet, and a lot of that biodiversity will vanish without good protected areas."