More than 90% of protected areas are disconnected

September 11, 2020

Ongoing land clearing for agriculture, mining and urbanisation is isolating and disconnecting Earth's protected natural areas from each other, a new study shows.

Lead author Michelle Ward, from The University of Queensland's School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, said the findings were "alarming".

"Protected areas are vital for the protection and survival of plants, animals and ecosystems," Ms Ward said.

"When intact, healthy habitat connects these protected areas, species can migrate, escape danger such as fires, and track their preferred microclimates under rapid climate change.

"Our research shows 40 per cent of the terrestrial planet is intact, but only 9.7 per cent of Earth's terrestrial protected network can be considered structurally connected.

"This means more than 90 per cent of protected areas are isolated, in a sea of human activities."

The study shows that, on average, 11 per cent of each country and territory's protected area estate can be considered connected.

Under international agreements, the global protected area network must be well connected and cover 17 per cent of land.

The study revealed, however, that only nine countries and territories - 4.6 per cent of them - have greater than 17 per cent of their land protected, and maintain greater than 50 per cent connectivity.

"On a positive note, our study provides a common framework - previously absent - for countries and territories to assess the connectivity performance of their existing and future protected areas, with access to information and metrics," Ms Ward said.

Professor James Watson of UQ and the Wildlife Conservation Society said the research highlighted the importance of better locating future protected areas and the need for more emphasis on wide-scale habitat protection and restoration.

"Protected areas increasingly are becoming the only tool conservationists talk about, but most nature lives beyond the protected area boundary," Professor Watson said.

"We need national and global conservation goals that address whole-of-landscape conservation and targets that halt the destruction of habitat between protected areas.

"Most of nature has no chance if it's to survive in just 20 per cent of the world.

"We hope this study provides essential information for conservation and development planning, helping guide future national and global conservation agendas."
-end-
The research has been published in Nature Communications (DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-18457-x).

University of Queensland

Related Conservation Articles from Brightsurf:

Measuring the true cost of conservation
BU Professor created the first high-resolution map of land value in the United states.

Environmental groups moving beyond conservation
Although non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have become powerful voices in world environmental politics, little is known of the global picture of this sector.

Hunting for the next generation of conservation stewards
Wildlife ecology students become the professionals responsible for managing the biodiversity of natural systems for species conservation.

Conservation research on lynx
Scientists at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) and the Leibniz Institute for Molecular Pharmacology (Leibniz-FMP) discovered that selected anti-oxidative enzymes, especially the enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD2), may play an important role to maintain the unusual longevity of the corpus luteum in lynxes.

New 'umbrella' species would massively improve conservation
The protection of Australia's threatened species could be improved by a factor of seven, if more efficient 'umbrella' species were prioritised for protection, according to University of Queensland research.

Trashed farmland could be a conservation treasure
Low-productivity agricultural land could be transformed into millions of hectares of conservation reserve across the world, according to University of Queensland-led research.

Bats in attics might be necessary for conservation
Researchers investigate and describe the conservation importance of buildings relative to natural, alternative roosts for little brown bats in Yellowstone National Park.

Applying biodiversity conservation research in practice
One million species are threatened with extinction, many of them already in the coming decades.

Making conservation 'contagious'
New research reveals conservation initiatives often spread like disease, a fact which can help scientists and policymakers design programs more likely to be taken up.

Overturning the truth on conservation tillage
Conservation tillage does not lower yield in modern cropping systems.

Read More: Conservation News and Conservation Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.