PerspectiveConservation

Losing ground in protected areas?

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Science  31 May 2019:
Vol. 364, Issue 6443, pp. 832-833
DOI: 10.1126/science.aax6392

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Summary

After 30 years of rapid growth in terrestrial protected areas, especially in the biodiverse tropics, expansion has slowed despite the ongoing mass extinction of species. Indeed, on page 881 of this issue, Kroner et al. (1) report that in some regions, the area that is protected is declining. They document examples of protected areas that have been made smaller or degazetted entirely, including in the United States and the Amazon. Taken together, these findings suggest a troubling trend; there are few wild spaces left to offset these losses with new parks, and biodiversity itself is irreplaceable. Even more common than erasing or shrinking parks are cases where the rules are loosened to allow resource use in areas that were previously strictly protected (1). Understanding the impacts of these “downgrades” requires reexamining the goals of protected areas and recognizing the gap between the official rules and actual management.

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