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 elements 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 l ‘University of Bonn, together with UFZ, University of Leipzig, Friedrich Schiller University Jena and many other institutions, has now investigated the effectiveness of biodiversity conservation of 118 national parks in 32 countries. in Africa and Europe based on changes in abundance of 464 mammal and bird species. Over the ten-year period studied from 2007 to 2007, they found that the effectiveness of 66 African parks and 66 European parks depended heavily on the respective local and national economic and societal factors – which are reflected in the Human Development Index (HDI). One possible 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 approximately 10%, compared to more than 25% in parks located in countries with the HDI the lowest.
National parks do not guarantee a defense to 100%
“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 management of national parks,” says lead author Dr. Tsegaye Gatiso, researcher at the University of Bonn and iDiv. “Finally, no socio-economic situation 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 system. ecological system.”
Better design of the national park system is needed
The researchers therefore conclude that there remains a gap marginal 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 steps including expanding the network of national parks, establishing corridors between protected areas to facilitate the dispersal of species between them and, very vitally, improving conditions for biodiversity outside national parks are the most critical to halting biodiversity loss.
“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 man-made boundaries of national parks. If they are then exposed to a variety of negative life situations outside the parks, this also affects their abundance inside the parks,” adds the study’s lead author, Dr Hjalmar Kühl, scientist to iDiv and MPI-EVA. “It is therefore important that ecological food outside the parks is significantly improved. Protected areas, and especially national parks, are sensors of the state of our planet’s biodiversity. The lack of effectiveness of the observed parks must be taken very seriously, and we must take great initiatives 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 66.5.8043.0016.HSK).