UNU in the News: Protected areas cannot stop biodiversity loss


  • 2011•08•10     Hamilton

    Continuing to set aside protected areas is an insufficient strategy for curbing global biodiversity loss, according to a new research article co-authored by Prof. Peter Sale, Assistant Director of the UNU Institute for Water, Environment & Health (UNU-INWEH).

    Dr. Sale and co-author Dr. Camilo Mora (Department of Biology, Dalhousie University) have received widespread media coverage for their research on “Ongoing global biodiversity loss and the need to move beyond protected areas”, published on 28 July 2011 in the Marine Ecology Progress Series (Vol. 434: 251–266, 2011).

    Drawing upon a broad range of global data and extensive literature review, the research highlights that the enforcement of existing protected areas (combined with the current pace of establishing new areas) will not be enough to stem global biodiversity loss, either on land or in the ocean.

    The creation and use of protected areas has become a leading international conservation strategy. However, Sale and Mora argue that a number of significant shortcomings in the usual processes of implementing protected areas preclude relying on them as a global solution to biodiversity loss. While efforts towards improving and increasing the number and/or size of protected areas must continue, there is a clear and urgent need to develop additional solutions, particularly ones that stabilize the size of the world’s human population and our ecological demands on biodiversity.

    “The global network of protected areas is a major achievement, and the pace at which it has been achieved is impressive”, says UNU-INWEH’s Sale. “Protected areas are very useful conservation tools, but unfortunately, the steep continuing rate of biodiversity loss signals the need to reassess our heavy reliance on this strategy.”

    The article′s ominous conclusions have been reported widely in a range of scientific  and online media publications. You can read more about the research in Science Newsline (“Ongoing Global Biodiversity Loss Unstoppable with Protected Areas Alone: Study”) , Yahoo! News Canada (“Protected spaces not stemming loss of biodiversity on land, water, report says”), UPI.com (“Study: Losses persist in protected areas”),  Science Daily (“Ongoing Global Biodiversity Loss Unstoppable With Protected Areas Alone”), and the Huffington Post (“Biodiversity On Earth Plummets, Despite Growth in Protected Habitats”).

    A UNU media release on the research can be viewed at EurekAlert!.

    The authors underline the correlations between growing world population, natural resources consumption and biodiversity loss to suggest that biodiversity loss is unlikely to be stemmed without directly addressing the ecological footprint of humanity.

    “Our study shows that the international community is faced with a choice between two paths”, says Dr. Sale. “”One option is to continue a narrow focus on creating more protected areas…. That path will fail. The other path requires that we get serious about addressing the growth in size and consumption rate of our global population.”