Tropical forest protected areas are home to the world’s vastest number of animal and plant species, but half of these species have dramatically declined in recent decades. A study of 60 protected areas in the tropics shows that forest destruction is the chief factor behind this decline.
How effective are nature reserves in preserving biodiversity in tropical rainforests? This question was examined in the study Averting biodiversity collapse in tropical forest protected areas published in the journal Nature in July 2012.
The study is based on research carried out over the last 20 to 30 years. It was drawn up by tropical-ecology experts from all over the world who considered 60 protected areas of rain forests and a total of 31 functional groups of species. In numerous nature reserves established to conserve biodiversity in tropical rainforests, the scientists identify a very negative trend. 50 per cent of today's protected tropical forest areas all over the world are increasingly endangered.
The reasons can be found on the one hand in the protected areas themselves: They are often too small, too fragmented and excessively isolated. On the other hand, however, the way in which the population interact with protected areas and the lack of supervision of the areas by the relevant authorities are also to blame. For example, natural areas are being exploited, changed and used for agriculture and commercial forestry, human settlements, for industry and infrastructure.
The global run on minerals such as gold, professionally organised hunting and poaching and the negative influence that exotic organisms have on the original biodiversity also play a role. The scientists call for enhanced protection of the forest and a far better supervision and monitoring, especially of endangered species.
More information on the study "Averting biodiversity collapse in tropical forest protected areas" by William F. Laurance, D. Carolina Useche, Julio Rendeiro, Margareta Kalka, Corey J. A. Bradshaw, et al., is available at Nature.com
Authors: Julius Maximilians University, Würzburg/Georg August University, Göttingen/ile