Protected nature areas are 'focusing on places without as many endangered species'

Scientists warn the wrong kind of land is currently being protected as national parks and other types of national wildlife zones

Science Edutir

A A A

Efforts to save some of the world’s most endangered species may be missing their targets by concentrating on the places in the world that do not have the richest density of animals and plants, scientists have found.

Global treaties aimed at preserving threatened wildlife have failed to identify the regions of the world with the highest proportion of endemic species that are not found anywhere else, according to a study published in the journal Science.

The scientists analysed a database of 110,000 plants compiled by the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew and found that two thirds of endemic species live on just 17 per cent of the Earth’s land surface, yet less than one sixth of this land is legally protected in some way.

Two international agreements, the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation, aspires to protect 17 per cent of the world by 2020 and in doing so aims to conserve 60 per cent of plant species.

However, the study found that although it is possible to conserve up to two thirds of endemic species by protecting 17 per cent of the land, the wrong kind of land is currently being protected as national parks and other types of national wildlife zones.

“To achieve these goals, we need to protect more land, on average, than we currently do, and much more in key places such as Madagascar, New Guinea and Ecuador,” said Professor Stuart Pimm of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, who led the research.

“Our study identifies regions of importance. The logical and very challenging next step will be to make tactical local decisions within those regions to secure the most critical land for conservation,” Professor Pimm said.

The analysis found that plant species are not distributed uniformly around the world but concentrated in “biodiversity hotspots”, with some regions such as Central America, the Caribbean, the Northern Andes, and parts of Africa and Asia, having high densities of endemic species. Islands are also particularly rich in endemic plants.

“Species endemic to small geographical ranges are at a much higher risk of being threatened or endangered than those with large ranges,” said Lucas Joppa of Microsoft Resarch’s Computational Science Laboratory in Cambridge, and lead author of the study.

“We combined regions to maximise the number of species in the minimal area of land. With that information, we can more accurately evaluate each region’s relative importance for conservation, and assess international priorities accordingly,” Dr Joppa said.

“We essentially asked the question: what’s the smallest amount of land area that we can possibly fit the most endemic species. When you do that you see it is possible to conserve more than 60 per cent of species by protecting 17 per cent of the land, but it is not so easy when most of the species don’t fall into the protected areas,” he said.

Professor Pimm said that it is good that the world has set aside a sizeable chunk of the land surface for protection status but more effort needs to be spent in matching up the protected areas with the areas with the densest concentration of threatened wildlife.

“The problem…is that some ecosystems are much easier to protect than others. It’s easy to protect ice sand sand – high mountains and remote deserts – but we need to protect more of the places where plant species are concentrated,” Professor Pimm said.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Sheeran arrives at the 56th annual Grammy Awards earlier this year
musicYes, that would be Ed Sheeran, according to the BBC
Arts and Entertainment
AKB48 perform during one of their daily concerts at Tokyo’s Akihabara theatre
musicJapan's AKB48 are one of the world’s most-successful pop acts
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
News
The headstone of jazz great Miles Davis at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York
news
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

JavaScript Developer (HTML5, Ext JS, CSS3, jQuery, AJAX)

£40000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: JavaScript Dev...

Dynamics CRM Developer (C#, .NET, Dynamics CRM 2011/2013)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Dynamics CRM D...

Web Developer (C#, ASP.NET, AJAX, JavaScript, MVC, HTML)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Web Developer ...

C# R&D .NET Developer-Algorithms, WCF, WPF, Agile, ASP.NET,MVC

£50000 - £67000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# R&D .NE...

Day In a Page

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

Meet Japan's AKB48

Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor