Protected Areas Aren’t Adequate to Shield Endangered Species

Some 20 percent of the world’s threatened animal species live in habitats that are entirely unprotected, according to a study just published in the journal Nature. Although 11.5 percent of the world’s land is protected in wildlife preserves and parks — exceeding the ambitious 10 percent goal established at 1992’s Caracas Congress — these areas are often extremely cold or extremely dry, with low biodiversity. “The protected areas tend to be in the wrong places. We have huge national parks in Alaska, but few protected areas in biologically rich places like Florida or Hawaii,” said ecologist Stuart Pimm. The situation is similar across the globe, particularly in poverty-stricken countries: The areas with the richest biodiversity are the most attractive for human development. The authors of the new study recommend targeting quality over quantity in habitat protection, and call upon developed nations to assist poorer countries in conservation efforts.