Large National Parks are Essential for Boosting Biodiversity

Category Science

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Researchers have recently found that large national parks have significant benefits in promoting biodiversity. These parks boost bird diversity within their boundaries, but also mammal diversity in adjacent unprotected areas. This discovery provides a much-needed conservation win for large reserves in the mega-biodiverse Southeast Asian region, inspiring large park designs in the UN's 30 by 2030 goal of increasing protected areas to 30 percent of all land.

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Large national parks significantly boost mammal diversity in nearby unprotected areas, highlighting their importance for conservation strategies in biodiversity-rich regions like Southeast Asia.

New research reveals the significant benefits of large national parks in promoting biodiversity. Not only do these parks enhance bird diversity within their boundaries, but they also increase mammal diversity in surrounding unprotected areas.

Large national parks reduce logging, due to their strict regulations and bans on hunting

The University of Queensland’s Dr. Matthew Luskin said the study, which involved using more than 2,000 cameras and bird surveys across Southeast Asia, reveals for the first time the benefit of expanding protected land areas around the globe beyond park boundaries.

"Protected area expansions are often a difficult and expensive process, but our results show they are absolutely worth it," Dr. Luskin said. "We already know that protected areas can reduce logging – and you can see that from satellite imagery – but what you can’t see is the number of animals inside the forest.

Researchers found that large reserves increased mammal diversity by up to 194 percent in adjacent unprotected areas

We also know that marine parks often report biodiversity spillover, whereby fish reproduce successfully inside park boundaries and their offspring disperse, benefiting surrounding habitats. What we didn’t know until now was whether terrestrial land parks are successful in providing biodiversity spillover, or simply displace biodiversity losses to surrounding areas." .

"Our analysis has revealed the benefits parks, specifically large ones, have to terrestrial mammals," Dr. Luskin said .

Larger parks had higher bird diversity than smaller parks

"Specifically, we found that when comparing unprotected areas near large reserves to unprotected areas that didn’t border large reserves, large reserves generated an up to 194 percent boost in mammal diversity." .

Researchers say the results provide a much-needed conservation win for large reserves in the mega-biodiverse Southeast Asian region, which is under threat from a multitude of factors, namely hunting and deforestation.

The UN's 30 by 2030 goal aims to increase protected areas to 30 percent of all land

"Hunting is a key concern for Southeast Asia and a prime suspect for why diversity has often been assumed to decline outside of parks," Dr. Luskin said. "Hunters are mobile and so we had thought that hunting bans within park boundaries may only displace these activities to nearby unprotected areas, undermining their net benefit.

It’s common to see hunters inside and outside of parks in many countries and we expected that hunters’ removing game animals would reduce diversity, but it appears parks limit hunting to the extent it doesn’t completely remove these animals.

Most countries have hunters, both inside and outside of protected parks

Another likely benefit of large parks is they support wide-ranging animals, such as tigers or elephants, that move across entire landscapes, including protected and unprotected areas." .

Lead author, Dr. Jedediah Brodie from the University of Montana, and the Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, said the teams’ work provides a clear motivation for future park designs to push for larger size as a key factor.

"This would fit nicely with the UN’s 30 by 2030 goal, which would increase protected areas to 30 percent of all land," Dr. Brodie said.

Wide-ranging animals, such as tigers and elephants, frequently move across entire landscapes, including both protected and unprotected areas

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