In the last decade, more than 4 million square kilometers of land have been declared as protected areas around the world, with little evidence of how good these areas are at being protected.

Protected Areas

PINNACLES NATIONAL PARK
(Photo : Wikimedia Commons)

Protected areas, also known as conservation areas, are areas that have been designated as such due to their recognized environmental, ecological, or cultural values. Safe areas are classified according to their degree of security, which is determined by the authorizing legislation of each country or the international organizations' rules. Additionally, protected areas are described as areas where human activity or, at the very least, natural resource use is limited.

Protected Areas Around the World

18-Year-Old Naturally Regenerating Forest (IMAGE)
(Photo : Credit, S. Lewis.)

Nearly 55,000 protected areas around the world were studied by a group of experts. All of them were affiliated with Michigan State University to learn what it takes to successfully conserve their habitats - a crucial benchmark for protecting biodiversity and saving natural resources. They agree that it is important to conserve trees in urban areas that are most vulnerable to deforestation, as well as to be prepared to be rigorous in applying deforestation-prevention laws

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Environmental Protection

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Researchers noticed in a recent issue of Science of the Total Environment that over 4 million square kilometers have been declared as protected areas in the last decade, with little documentation of how good these areas are at protecting around the world.

More trees can absorb greenhouse gases, deter deforestation, reduce drought, purify water, and calm sandstorms if forests are preserved. According to the report, several well-known conservation areas have lost biodiversity that was supposed to be protected.

Lack of Enforcement

"To achieve sustainability, forests must be protected," said Jianguo "Jack" Liu, MSU Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability and director of the Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability. "It's important to scrutinize protected areas around the world to ensure we're targeting our attention to the right sites."

The study found that about 71 percent of protected areas around the world contributed to preventing forest destruction. However, there is still a lot of growth potential, as about 30 percent of forest loss in protected areas is avoided.

It also found that protected areas in areas where forest destruction was more severe avoided more forest loss.

Finally, it stressed the necessity of enforcing the law strictly. It is vital to implement the law. There is a trade-off at the global level between human uses of natural resources and forest preservation.

In terms of avoiding woodland destruction, private reserves operated similarly to public parks.

Call for Action

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The group concluded that simply naming a region as protected is insufficient and that more emphasis should be placed on enhancing the standards of forest management and securing the appropriate forests. Currently, a global trend of naming rural areas as protected areas misses the mark, focusing only on natural areas that are more vulnerable to exploitation.

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