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article imageScientists discover 2178 'irreplaceable' ecosystems

By Chanah Rubenstein     Nov 25, 2013 in Environment
A study has found more than 2,000 exclusive habitats around the world that are fundamental to the survival of threatened wildlife. The researchers are hoping that better management could help the susceptible ecosystems.
The study looked at 173,000 terrestrial protected areas and 21,500 species on IUCN’s (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species, and then compared the influence each site makes to the long term survival of the species, many of which can't be found elsewhere.
Researchers then listed 2178 irreplaceable ecosystems that are protected and 192 sites that are being proposed, by ranking their importance, reports Mother Nature Network.
Numerous sites overlap, and for this reason, the researchers combined areas and created a list of 78 clusters of “exceptionally irreplaceable” habitats, reported Business Insider Australia.
While many of the areas are already under protection by UNESCO World Heritage, there are still many that are not. According to Business Insider Australia, 13 percent of the world’s landmass is currently protected.
Previous studies on susceptible ecosystems had hoped to increase the number of protected areas; however, this study is aiming to have better management for each site. According to scientists, having the designation of being protected is great on paper, but what really creates progress is management, and that is what is falling behind.
Paul Salaman, the CEO of the Rainforest Trust, and an expert in Columbian biodiversity, says, “Páramo Urrao National Protective Forests Reserves, in Colombia, for example, does not really exist…It was legally created in 1975, but this was never translated into on-the-ground management,” reports the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Simon Stuart, chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission adds, “Protected areas can only fulfil their role in reducing biodiversity loss if they are effectively managed…governments should pay particular attention to the management effectiveness of highly irreplaceable protected areas.”
Many of the top sites in the study are located in South America, with the top two areas being in Venezuela: the Formaciones de Tepuyes and Canaima National Park. The location with the highest number of species under threat is Columbia’s Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Natural National Park, reports GMA News. Many of these areas are being threatened by deforestation, resource extraction, and climate change.
Other areas on the list include: Calauit Game Preserve and Wildlife Sanctuary in Palawan, Philippines, the Wet Tropics of Queensland, Australia, and Talamanca Range-La Amistad Reserves / La Amistad National Park, Panama/Costa Rica. The complete database is open for the public to browse.
The study was published in the journal Science and features authors from France, Switzerland, Australia, United Arab Emirates, the US, and the UK.
More about Iucn, protected wildlife, unesco world heritage site