MISSOULA — One of the most effective ways to ensure biodiversity conservation is setting aside areas for nature.
Places like national parks and game reserves are intended to protect areas from allowing wildlife to flourish. This edition of A Wilder View breaks down why advancements in technology will enable us to confirm these areas are of great importance to animals.
People are a dominant environmental force on the planet. The “human footprint” is often used to characterize the cumulative impact we have across the Earth – which now extends across 75% of the planet's land area and has been linked to changes in the behavior, distribution, and diversity of wildlife.
We are currently living through what some biologists consider the sixth major extinction. Disturbances such as habitat destruction and invasive species drive the extensive loss of wildlife populations.
There are efforts in place to combat this, though. The establishment of protected areas is one of the most prominent conservation actions for mitigating these losses. Globally, protected land coverage has increased from 14.1% to 15.3% in the past decade, and this trend is expected to continue under international policy commitments to conservation.
While many protected areas work in protecting habitat, there is limited evidence about whether they also protect animal populations.
However, recent advances in motion sensored camera technology or camera traps allow for quick monitoring of changes in the abundance and distribution of wildlife communities. There are many camera-trap studies. However, few have pooled data across many areas to address conservation questions on a global scale.
A recent study published in The Society for Conservation Biology represents the most extensive synthesis of camera trap surveys to date. Researchers analyzed a global dataset from over 8,500 camera traps in 23 countries on four continents.
The research suggests that protected areas are effective in conserving wildlife biodiversity. This provides substantial evidence of the global effectiveness of protected areas in preserving wildlife and emphasizes the critical role of area-based conservation.
However, as human populations and consumption rates grow, so do the pressures in and around protected areas. There is an urgent need for reliable indicators of biodiversity change and rigorous assessments of conservation effectiveness.