1 Tahrcountry Musings: Are we biased in locating our Protected Areas?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Are we biased in locating our Protected Areas?

High and Far: Biases in the Location of Protected Areas
Joppa, L., & Pfaff, A. PLoS ONE, 4 (12) (2009).

This is a 2009 paper, which I came across the other day. I found it very interesting.

About an eighth of the earth's land surface is covered under protected areas. Majority of these parks came up during the 20th century. Even though it looks very rosy the fact remains that many of the current PAs were not created with a systematic eye to achieving conservation priorities. Across 147 countries' national networks, protected areas are non-randomly located on the landscape.

The authors of this paper say many of the PAs are biased in their formation. The researchers try and examine each country's PA network for bias in elevation, slope, distances to roads and cities, and suitability for agriculture. Their analysis indicates that significant majority of park networks are biased to higher elevations, steeper slopes and greater distances to roads and cities. Another interesting feature is that within a country, PAs with higher protection status are more biased than are the PAs with lower protection statuses. In short parks are biased towards where they can least prevent land conversion. Hoekstra et al has previously shown us a clear bias in protection towards certain biomes and ecoregions.
All previous global studies have ignored political boundaries. This is a vital omission. Ecological processes cross borders but most PAs do not.

The authors categorically say investment in new PAs will need to be much more efficient. They should be based upon sophisticated conservation planning tools.

The researchers say their results support the idea that targeting and blocking threat may deserve higher priority in the future creation and management of PAs. Their results also highlight the increasing realization that future PA allocation must differ from historic protection strategies.

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