According to a November 14 news release from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a new study identified the protected areas most important to preventing extinctions of the world’s mammals, birds and amphibians. The result of international collaboration, the study offers practical advice for increasing the efficiency of protected areas in conserving global biodiversity.
The results of the study appear in the latest issue of Science, which calculates the “irreplaceability” of specific protected areas, grounded on data on 173,000 terrestrial protected areas and assessments of 21,500 species on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. In addition, the study compares the influence each protected area has on the long-term survival of species.
78 sites, which comprise 137 protected areas in 34 countries, were identified as irreplaceable. Together, these sites host the bulk of the populations of more than 600 birds, amphibians, and mammals – half of which are globally threatened.
As is the case in many of these sites, these areas shelter species that cannot be found anywhere else, such as the Critically Endangered Laysan Duck (Anas laysanensis) endemic to the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge, USA, and the 13 species of amphibians endemic to Canaima National Park in Venezuela.
Many of these irreplaceable areas are classified as of “Outstanding Universal Value” under the UNESCO World Heritage Convention. Among these sites are Ecuador’s Galápagos Islands, Peru’s Manú National Park, and India’s Western Ghats.
Unfortunately, half of the land area covered by these sites does not have World Heritage recognition.
“These exceptional places would all be strong candidates for World Heritage status,” said Soizic Le Saout, lead author of the study. “Such recognition would ensure effective protection of the unique biodiversity in these areas, given the rigorous standards required for World Heritage sites.”
In contrast to previous assessments that focused on swelling the number of protected sites, this study highlights the need for, and provides guidance for, improving the insufficient management of existing protected areas.
“Páramo Urrao National Protective Forests Reserves, in Colombia, for example, does not really exist,” said Paul Salaman, an expert in Colombian biodiversity and CEO of the Rainforest Trust. “It was legally created in 1975, but this was never translated into on-the-ground management”.
The study adds to efforts undertaken by an extensive network of experts to gather and analyze data for The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and the World Database on Protected Areas. It is the result of an international collaboration between the Centre for Functional and Evolutionary Ecology (CEFE) in France, IUCN (International Union for Nature Conservation) through its Species Survival Commission and World Commission on Protected Areas, the World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC), and BirdLife International.