Despite commendable conservation efforts and investments by governments, NGOs, and international and national conservation agencies, biodiversity continues to decline across the world. One of the key strategies to halt the decline of biodiversity is the creation of protected areas such as national parks, which are supposed to provide favorable conditions for the stability of biodiversity.
Species decline is strongly associated with the Human Development Index
An international research team led by iDiv, MPI-EVA and the University of Bonn, together with UFZ, University of Leipzig, Friedrich Schiller University Jena and many other institutions, has now investigated the biodiversity conservation effectiveness of 114 national parks in 25 countries. in Africa and Europe based on changes in abundance of 464 species of mammals and birds. Over the ten-year period studied from 2007 to 2017, they found that the effectiveness of the 66 African parks and the 48 European parks was highly dependent on the respective local and national economic and societal conditions – which are reflected in the index of human development (HDI) . A likely explanation is that the demand for resources from national parks is higher and less regulated when the HDI is low, making parks less efficient. Parks located in countries with the highest HDI values showed average declines in species abundance of around 10%, compared to more than 25% in parks located in countries with the highest HDI values. down.
National parks do not guarantee 100% protection
“But we also found that seemingly effective national parks embedded in a favorable socio-economic context (such as a high HDI) are not necessarily a generic solution for ideal national park management,” says lead author Dr. Tsegaye Gatiso, researcher at the University of Bonn and iDiv. “Finally, no socio-economic condition and no set of conservation measures currently implemented can guarantee the elimination of threats to biodiversity. Species may still decline in the same national park under less favorable conditions because protected areas are an inseparable part of a dynamic and complex social ecological system.”
Better design of the national park system is needed
The researchers therefore conclude that there remains a marginal gap with fully effective national parks. A critical need is improved design of the national park system and associated management to reduce threats and make it ecologically functional. Concerted actions including the expansion of the network of national parks, the establishment of corridors between protected areas to facilitate the dispersal of species between them and, very importantly, the improvement of conditions for biodiversity outside national parks are the most critical elements for halting the loss of biodiversity.
“Many national parks have become ‘islands in a desert of industrial agriculture, forestry and infrastructure’. Poor ecological conditions outside national parks reduce the abundance of the species. After all, they do not orient their ranges towards the man-made boundaries of national parks.If they are then exposed to a variety of negative living conditions outside the parks, this also affects their abundance inside parks,” adds the lead author of the study, Dr. Hjalmar Kühl, a scientist at iDiv and MPI-EVA. “It is therefore important that the ecological conditions outside the parks are significantly improved. Protected areas, and especially national parks, are sensors of the state of our planet’s biodiversity. The lack of effectiveness of observed parks must be taken very seriously, and we must make great efforts to significantly improve the network of protected areas in terms of ecological functionality.”
The study was funded by the German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) (DFG FZT 118, 202548816; TTG and HSK) and the Robert Bosch Foundation (grant number 32.5.8043.0016.0; HSK).
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Material provided by German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig. Original written by Urs Moesenfechtel. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.