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Global assessments of biodiversity argue for expansion of protected areas in key regions

Five articles published in a Special Section in the December 2004 issue of BioScience, the monthly journal of the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS), provide new global assessments of how well protected areas such as parks can safeguard the numerous animal and plant species at risk of becoming extinct. The new analyses lead to the conclusion that although nominally protected areas now approach 12 per cent of the Earth's land surface, more needs to be done. The studies point to regions that should have high priority in the creation of additional protected areas for biodiversity conservation, and suggest ways to identify specific sites.

The articles employ the framework known as gap analysis, a planning approach based on the assessment of the comprehensiveness of existing protected-area networks and the identification of "gaps" in coverage--species whose distribution means they are nowhere protected.

The first article in the Special Section, by Thomas Brooks of Conservation International and fourteen coauthors, assesses high-quality global databases newly available for conservation planning. It notes that coverage by protected areas varies geographically, but is less than 2 percent for some bioregions, such as the tropical dry forests of Mexico, the mediterranean habitats of Chile, and the temperate grasslands of Southern Africa.

In the second article, Ana S. L. Rodrigues of Conservation International and 21 coauthors build on a previously published global gap analysis to ask how the protected area network could be strategically expanded to improve protection of over 11,000 species of vertebrates. Some 13 percent of 11,633 bird, mammal, amphibian, and turtle species analyzed are wholly unrepresented in protected areas, and almost three quarters are not adequately protected. Amphibians are markedly less well protected than mammals, turtles, or birds. Places identified as urgent priorities for expansion of the network of pr
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Contact: Donna Royston
droyston@aibs.org
202 628 1500 261
American Institute of Biological Sciences
1-Dec-2004


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