Data from thousands of cameras confirms protected areas promote mammal diversity

Saving habitat saves lives

A new study from the University of British Columbia shows how protected areas have been effective at conserving wildlife across the planet.

UBC researchers in the faculty of forestry analyzed data from 8,671 camera trap stations from 23 countries and found more mammal diversity in habitat with a protected designation, compared to those with none.

“This is not shocking news in itself, but it is exciting evidence of the critical role that parks and nature reserves play in wildlife conservation,” says Dr. Cole Burton, the study’s senior author and a conservation biologist who researches mammal populations and human-wildlife coexistence.

“As international discussions continue on new global targets for expanding protected areas, it’s important to be able to measure the benefits of the protections that do currently exist.”

Protected areas are the final strongholds of many endangered mammals, which according to Burton, are difficult to protect because of the large areas they require, which tends to put them in conflict with people.

“If we want to keep larger mammals around, along with the critical roles they play in ecosystems, we need to continue focusing on the growth of the protected area network,” said Burton. “In fact, under the Convention on Biological Diversity, the world is currently discussing new targets for how much of the earth’s surface should be covered by parks. We need to have better information to inform these policy discussions. Hopefully this study helps fill the gaps in our knowledge.”

The study analyzed for the presence of a wide range of mammal species, from caribou in Canada to leopard cats in China.

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