Preserving the Reserves

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Science  18 Mar 2005:
Vol. 307, Issue 5716, pp. 1693
DOI: 10.1126/science.307.5716.1693b

Protected areas of tropical forests harbor some of the greatest concentrations of terrestrial biodiversity, and the maintenance of this wealth depends in part on the integrity of the surrounding unprotected habitat. The effectiveness of protected areas for conservation of ecosystems and biodiversity is a continual source of anxiety for conservationists, especially when such areas are remote and difficult to monitor. Using satellite data, DeFries et al.have completed a global assessment of the extent of forest loss within and around nearly 200 protected areas in the tropics over the past 20 years. The capacity of surrounding buffer zones to enhance the effective size of protected areas has diminished in most cases over this period, and there has been a near-universal trend toward increasing isolation of protected areas. This trend has been especially sharp in Asian tropics and in dry tropical forests, where the protected areas themselves have often suffered habitat loss. As the surrounding areas become decreasingly effective as buffer zones, the management of protected areas will need to focus more sharply on the ecological interactions at the boundary if biodiversity is not to be further eroded. — AMS

Ecol. App. 15, 19 (2005).

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