Despite the benefits of protected areas for wildlife, there is a lack of evidence about whether they increase species populations. The findings suggest that PAs may not benefit species with limited ranges and do not expand ecological niches. However, these results do reinforce the need for protection.
Studies on marine protected areas lack evidence for effect on species populations
The authors of the review found no conclusive evidence that marine protected areas reduce fishing activity. The researchers looked at 79 different site comparison studies across the Mediterranean, Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. While they found some evidence that marine protected areas affect fish populations, the findings varied considerably depending on the species and their position in the food chain. In general, however, they found that fish populations were not significantly higher in marine reserves than in non-protected areas.
The Philippines, Indonesia, and New Zealand were among the countries that conducted studies. While these countries have a large number of protected areas, their overall number of studies was relatively low. Some researchers believe this may be due to the high incidence of marine protected areas in these countries. Moreover, these countries were among the first in the region to implement community-based MPAs.
While marine protected areas do offer high protection to marine life, their presence outside these regions is minimal. Hence, it would be best to focus on key regions and ecosystems to designate MPAs. And the areas that are designated should be representative of the unique habitats found in U.S. waters.
The study authors’ analysis revealed that most of the relevant studies were published as peer-reviewed journal articles. Only 6% were published in the grey literature (i.e., reports and policy documents). This might be surprising given the number of marine conservation activities in SE Asia, but it is indicative of a lack of research from non-academic institutions. The remaining 4% were reported in theses.
Human-dominated land uses benefit from PAs
Human-dominated land uses can benefit from protected areas, but this may depend on the nature of the human-dominated land use. These areas may be specifically designated to protect species that have large ranges. Protected areas in human-dominated land uses may also benefit species that are rare or endemic to a particular region.
According to the UN, protected areas can provide economic benefits to communities in a variety of ways. These benefits can include ecosystem services such as climate regulation, wildlife habitat, natural resources, tourism, recreation, and poverty reduction. For example, a protected area can provide sustainable products for consumers or help local farmers earn a profit from the sale of those products.
Protected areas in human-dominated land use areas can also help these areas avoid becoming overcrowded. Because protected areas are often bordered by human-dominated land uses, they provide a hard boundary for these landscapes. These hard boundaries may limit the development of agricultural land, affecting the diversity of ecosystems within a given area.
WDPA can help to manage the area-based conservation. Its web-based applications and services allow users to assess the state of protected areas and identify pressures on them. These data and indicators provide valuable information to policy makers, researchers, and managers of protected areas. These tools are also useful for national and international reporting and resource allocation.
Climate change affects species populations in PAs
Climate change is one of the most important factors affecting biodiversity. It can increase or decrease the number of species in a region and alter biotic interactions. As a result, it threatens many areas that are rich in species. Even small changes in climatic conditions can lead to dramatic changes in species populations in these areas.
Although the effects of climate change on species’ abundances are largely model dependent, they show that a number of species could become extinct by 2070. For example, eleven species are predicted to become extinct by 2070 if we pursue RCP8.5 emissions scenarios. For birds and mammals, the projected declines are due to the loss of lowland niches. However, the impact of climate change on amphibian and reptile species is not as pronounced.
To assess the impacts of climate change on species populations, researchers analyzed the current distribution of suitable habitats and projected distributions under three different climate scenarios. For each taxon, they produced a contingency table to project how climate change will affect the distribution of their species in a given area. The study used the best available data available for each taxon and assessed the impact of climate change on the spatial distribution of species within those habitats.
Adapting to climate change requires an integrated approach to protect species populations in protected areas. Moreover, the global extinction rates are three or four times higher than their natural rates. More than 85% of threatened species are thought to be threatened or endangered due to loss of habitats. This is why well-managed protected areas are critical for biodiversity conservation.
Impacts of no-take zones on fish catch in PAs
The World Conservation Society (WCS) has recently published a long-term study that reveals the positive impacts of no-take marine protected areas. These areas increase the number of fish by 42 percent, and also help preserve and restore ecosystems. The study tracked fish catches in two Kenyan counties for 24 years. The one county used a no-take MPA that covered 30 percent of its fishery; the other focused on enforcing gear restrictions, such as a ban on the use of small-mesh nets.
The WCS study represents the longest-running fish catch record for coral reefs. It revealed patterns that took almost 20 years to develop. Previous studies had used simulation models to evaluate the effects of no-take MPAs, but WCS’s study revealed a more complex picture. While most existing studies have focused on catch per fisher or area, the WCS’ study highlights the importance of long-term studies to calibrate fisheries production models.
While the overall effects of no-take zones on fish catch are inconsequential, there are benefits associated with increasing the size of the no-take zones. For example, a no-take zone spanning up to 10 square kilometers increases fish biomass, which can help the ecosystem. In addition, it can promote density-dependent spill-over processes, which can increase fisheries catches within the buffer zone.
The study also found a positive impact on fisher-men’s OMS. It showed that fishermen who participate in MPA management feel that they are protected by the enforcement of the no-take zone, and that they commit to sustainable SSF practices. Further, this study showed that high enforcement had positive effects on fisher-men’s incomes and environmental commitment.
Effects of hunting and trapping on species populations in PAs
Hunting and trapping have a wide range of negative impacts on species populations. They alter the ecosystem function of tropical forests. However, these effects are not widely understood. Hence, it is essential to understand the effects of hunting and trapping on species populations to develop effective mitigation strategies.
Hunting and trapping affect all species to varying degrees, but some species are more vulnerable than others. For example, hunting and trapping are more detrimental to large species like gorillas, elephants, and lions. Smaller species such as rodents are less affected by hunting and trapping.
Hunting and trapping also modify animals’ behavior. For example, studies on deer populations found that hunting and trapping affected deer behavior. However, these studies only focused on hunting seasons, and did not explore the long-term effects. Hunting may alter deer behavior by modifying their diets, habitat use, and community structure.
Hunting and trapping can also alter the ecology of protected areas. In Asia, for example, apparently hunting has been linked to the loss of large hardwood trees. Hunting has also shifted forests to more rapidly growing and lower-density plants. This has negative consequences for species diversity.
It also interferes with the migration and hibernation of animals. Because animals are afraid to be killed, this activity may prevent them from hibernating or migrating. Hunting disturbs the interconnectedness of ecosystems and affects the entire biosphere. Each living thing needs the other to survive. Hunting disrupts the balance and leads to a depleted ecosystem.
Need for long-term monitoring of nature in PAs
To understand the status of nature, protected areas need to collect and analyze data for long-term conservation planning. It is important to monitor biodiversity over long periods because the trends and states of nature are changing rapidly. These data are particularly useful for conservation planning and management across large geographic extents. There are several ways to achieve long-term monitoring, including using field surveys and remote sensing techniques. One example is ILTER, a global network of long-term monitoring stations.
However, this method can be resource-intensive, and it must be adapted to the management objectives of the area. For example, in a small reserve, monitoring of a single component of the ecosystem may be sufficient, but in a large reserve, monitoring may require Geo-spatial analysis to identify impacts of human activities, such as shifting cultivation, hunting, and mining. Increasingly, protected areas rely on local people and researchers to help them monitor nature, and some are even utilizing citizen science projects to collect data on the environment.
As global-scale studies on climate change show, the largest shifts in climatic zones are likely to occur within PAs. These shifts are predicted to be largest in tropical, subtropical, and polar PAs. Furthermore, anthropogenic activities are increasingly disrupting ecosystems, preventing biotic dispersal and supporting invasive species.
Provided by Antonio Westley
Disclaimer: This article is meant to be seen as an overview of this subject and not a reflection of viewpoints or opinions as nothing is definitive. So, make sure to do your research and feel free to use this information at your own discretion.