Many of the protected tropical rainforests struggle to conserve biodiversity. Apart from for instance illegal hunting and logging in the reserves, developments in the immediate vicinity of a protected area also have a major impact on biodiversity. This is shown in research led by Professor William Laurance, affiliate professor ‘International Nature Conservation’ at Utrecht University. The results will be published on July 25 in the prestigious scientific journal Nature.
The survey showed that half of the protected tropical rainforests have difficulty to conserve biodiversity, despite that most reserves do contribute to the protection of their rainforest. The species that have difficulties surviving vary. Apart from the large carnivores and monkeys, the number of for instance amphibians and ancient trees is also decreasing.
Recente ontbossing voor palmolieplantages langs de rand van Bukit Palong National Park in Maleisië. (Copyright: William Laurance)
Deforestation in vicinity
The poorly protected reserves suffer the most from the consequences of illegal occupation, hunting and logging. Developments in the immediate vicinity of the area, however, seem almost as important for the conservation of biodiversity in the tropical rainforest. "The reserves reflect the threats in the surrounding areas." Said William Laurance. "85% of the reserves have lost a portion or even all of their surrounding forests in the past 20 to 30 years. The consequences of this deforestation penetrate within the protected area, as do the threat from for instance illegal mining around the reserve. "
Involving local people
The researchers suggest that the threats both within and outside protected forests should be better handled, among other things, the involvement of local people should be increased. Eventually, the protected areas must become more resistant against future threats like climate change. Laurance: "We have no choice. Without well-protected tropical rainforests a large part of biodiversity disappears. "
Knowledge of more than 200 biologists
Tropical rainforests contain an enormous diversity of animals and plants. In order to preserve these fragile ecosystems, it is essential that the number and size of rainforest that are protected increases. Yet there was still much unknown about the ultimate effect of the protective measures on biodiversity. Laurance therefore pooled the knowledge of more than 200 biologists who have done years of research in tropical rainforests. His team studied more than 30 different groups of animal and plant species in 60 protected tropical rainforests around the world. International and national scientists from among others the University of Leiden, Twente University and Royal HaskoningDHV, indicated for the past decades the number of these species which lived in the area they investigated.
A silky anteater (Cyclopes didactylus) from Barro Colorado Island, Panama. This small island, just 1500 hectares (3700 acres) in area, is one of the tropical protected areas evaluated in this study. (Copyright: Christian Ziegler, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute)
William F. Laurance and 215 co-authors, Averting biodiversity collapse in tropical forest protected areas, Nature, 26 July 2012
On September 27, William Laurance receives the Heineken Prize for Environmental Sciences of the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences. The professor at James Cook University in Cairns (Australia) and affiliate professor at Utrecht University will receive the prize of 150 thousand U.S. dollars for his outstanding contribution to the ecology and protection of tropical forests. On October 1, Laurance gives a lecture at Utrecht University on his Nature-publication Averting biodiversity collapse in tropical forest protected areas.
Robert Kerst, science communicator, Utrecht University, +31 6 519 70 283, firstname.lastname@example.org
Utrecht University Press Communication +31 (0)30 253 3550, email@example.com