Overstory #90 - Biodiversity and Protected Areas
This edition covers protection of ecosystems for the purpose of maintaining biological diversity. Protected areas on both small and large scales can conserve biodiversity, as well as protect other essential ecosystem functions such as watershed, carbon storage, and erosion control. Although this edition does not directly cover farm systems, many farms have wild areas such as gulches, forests, and areas that have long been unused and are returning to forests. Protected areas are important on both large and small scales.
Establishment of protected areas
The world's first two national parks were established in the 1870s. Growth the number and size of protected areas was slow at first. It accelerated during the 1920s and 1930s, halted during World War II, and regained momentum by the early 1950s. The number doubled during the 1970s. Before 1970, most protected areas were located in industrial countries. In more recent years, the Developing World has led in both numbers added and rates of establishment.
Acquisition and designation
Most protected areas are established by official acts designating that uses of particular sites will be restricted to those compatible with natural ecological conditions. At the Federal level in the United States, designating a land area or water body for conservation involves making a formal declaration of intent to assign a certain category of protection and then providing an opportunity for extensive public comment on the proposed action. Other governments use similar processes, although the extent of public participation varies.
The degree of protection depends partly on the objectives of the acquisition or designation. There are many different types of designations. Kenya, for example, has national parks, national reserves, nature reserves, and forest reserves. The wildlife sanctuaries in Kiribati in the South Pacific are very different in conservation terms from wildlife sanctuaries in India. Designated national parks of the United Kingdom are quite different from national parks in the United States. And in Spain, national parks, nature parks, and national hunting reserves indicate different types of protection.
To clarify this situation and to promote the full range of protected area options, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) provides a series of 10 management categories (IUCN 1978, 1982). Protected areas are categorized according to their management objectives, rather than by the name used in their official designations (see table). Thus, the national parks of the United Kingdom are placed under category V (protected landscape or seascape), rather than under category II (national parks). Standardization of the categories also facilitates international comparisons and provides a framework for all protected areas.
Categories and management objectives of protected areas
I. Scientific reserve/strict nature reserve: To protect and maintain natural processes in an undisturbed state for scientific study, environmental monitoring, education, and maintenance of genetic resources.
II. National park: To protect areas of national or international significance for scientific, educational, and recreational use.
III. Natural monument/natural landmark: To protect and preserve nationally significant features because of their special interest or unique characteristics.
IV. Managed nature reserve/wildlife sanctuary: To assure the conditions necessary to protect species, groups of species, biotic communities, or physical features of the environment that require specific human manipulation for their perpetuation.
V. Protected landscape or seascape: To maintain nationally significant landscapes characteristic of the harmonious interaction of humans and land, while allowing recreation and tourism within the normal lifestyles and economic activities of these areas.
VI. Resource reserve: To protect the natural resources of the area for future use and prevent or contain development activities that could affect the resource, pending the establishment of objectives based on knowledge and planning.
VII. Natural biotic area/anthropological reserve: To allow the way of life of societies living in harmony with the environment to continue.
VIII. Multiple-use management area/managed resource area: To provide for the sustained production of water, timber, wildlife, pasture, and outdoor recreation, with conservation oriented to the support of the economic activities (although specific zones may also be designed within these areas to achieve specific conservation objectives).
IX. Biosphere reserve: To conserve an ecologically representative landscape in areas that range from complete protection to intensive production; to promote ecological monitoring, research and education; and to facilitate local, regional, and international cooperation.
X. World heritage site: To protect the natural features for which the area was considered to be of world heritage quality, and to provide information for worldwide public enlightenment.
(Source: J.W. Thorsell, 'The Role of Protected Areas in Maintaining Biological Diversity in Tropical Developing Countries," OTA commissioned paper, 1985.)
Criteria for selection of areas to protect
Protected areas can be located and managed to protect biological diversity at three levels:
1. at the ecosystem level: by protecting unique ecosystems, representative areas for each main type of ecosystem in a nation or region, and species-rich ecosystems and centers of endemic species;
2. at the species level: by giving priority to the genetically most distinct species (e.g., families with few species or genera with only one species), and to culturally important species and endemic genera and species; and
3. at the gene level: by giving priority to plant and animal types that have been or are being domesticated, to populations of wild relatives of domesticated species, and to wild resource species (those used for food, fuel, fiber, medicine, construction material, ornament, etc.).
Harrison, J. 1985. Status and Trends of Natural Ecosystems Worldwide. OTA commissioned paper.
International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). 1978. Categories, Objectives, and Criteria for Protected Areas. Morges, Switzerland.
International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). 1982. Categories, Objectives, and Criteria for Protected Areas. In: J.A. McNeely and K.R. Miller (eds). National Parks, Conservation, and Development: The Role of Protected Area in Sustaining Society, Proceedings of the World Congress on National Parks, Bali, Indonesia. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC.
International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). 1985. The United Nations List of National Parks and Protected Areas. Gland, Switzerland.
U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment (OTA). 1984. Technologies to Sustain Tropical Forest Resources, OTA-F214. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC.
This article is excerpted from:
U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment. 1987. Technologies to Maintain Biological Diversity. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC.
About the Authors
Dr. Pierre Binggeli is an expert in woody plant ecology and conservation, with wide experience in tropical and European ecosystems. His current position is Research Officer, at the University of Wales Bangor, working on the project "Biodiversity conservation in ancient church and monestry yards in Ethiopia".
Dr. John B. Hall is a Senior Lecturer in Forestry, with widespread experience in tropical woody plant ecology, especially in West, East and Southern Africa.
Dr. John R. Healey is a Lecturer in Tropical Forestry, who has worked on invasive plant ecology and management in Jamaica, as well as other aspects of forest ecology and management in Jamaica, West and East Africa, and South East Asia.
The authors can be contacted at: School of Agricultural and Forest Sciences, University of Wales, Bangor, Gwynedd, LL57 2UW, UK; Tel: 44 1248 383703 or 382446; Fax: 44 1248 354997; Web site: http://www.safs.bangor.ac.uk/IWPT