“The scariest thing about our findings,” said Carolina Useche of the Humboldt Institute in Colombia, “is just how widespread the declines of species are in the suffering reserves. It’s not just a few groups that are hurting, but an alarmingly wide array of species.” These included big predators and other large-bodied animals, many primates, old-growth trees, and stream-dwelling fish and amphibians, among others.
The researchers found that reserves that were suffering most were those that were poorly protected and suffered encroachment from illegal colonists, hunters and loggers. Kadiri Serge Bobo of the University of Dschang in Cameroon, Africa, said that it was not just what was happening inside a reserve that was important. “Almost as important is what’s going on outside it,” he said. “Eighty-five percent of the reserves we studied lost some nearby forest cover over the past two to three decades, but only two percent saw an increase in surrounding forest.” Deforestation is advancing rapidly in tropical nations and most reserves are losing some or all of their surrounding forest. The team found many nature reserves acted like mirrors—partially reflecting the threats and changes in their surrounding landscapes. “For example, if a park has a lot of fires and illegal mining around it, those same threats can also penetrate inside it, to some degree,” Ms Useche said.
Published online on 26 July 2012.Contact at the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin:
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