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New parks to protect animals seen as feasible

Researchers find many imperiled species occur in settings conducive to conservation

An article in the September 2006 issue of BioScience, the monthly journal of the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS), provides some rare good news for conservation biologists. Authors L. J. Gorenflo and Katrina Brandon used GIS (geographic information system) technology to study some 4,000 "gap" locations worldwide identified in previous research as harboring animals vulnerable to extinction yet unprotected by conservation regulations.

Gorenflo and Brandon concluded that many of the gaps, which tend to occur disproportionately in the tropics, on islands, and in mountains, are locations where conservation measures appear feasible, because they include large tracts of conservation-compatible habitat and have a sparse human population, yet are not attractive for agriculture. Most of the gap locations did not feature high levels of threat from humans.

Gorenflo and Brandon's analysis did point to potential difficulties in establishing protected areas in some parts of the world. Human presence seems to be a hindrance to conservation in gap locations situated near coasts, including islands. In other regions, including parts of the Andes, Mexico, Brazil, and Africa, some gap locations have agricultural potential, which suggests that conservation measures there might be opposed by farming interests.

Nevertheless, although other factors besides those analyzed by Gorenflo and Brandon influence the likelihood that protected areas are established, the findings suggest that efforts to establish new protected areas may be worthwhile in many parts of the world.

Donna Royston | EurekAlert!
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