Forests

Unsustainable hunting & recreational activities a primary threat to global protected areas: study

A study which assessed around 2,000 protected areas across 149 countries shows unsustainable hunting, tourism & forest fire can degrade the biodiversity of the area

 
By Jitendra
Last Updated: Monday 22 January 2018
The most common threat face by protected areas are unsustainable hunting and the collection of animals, recreational activities such as off-road vehicle access, cross-country skiing, mountain biking or hiking, logging, fire or fire suppression. Credit: An
The most common threat face by protected areas are unsustainable hunting and the collection of animals, recreational activities such as off-road vehicle access, cross-country skiing, mountain biking or hiking, logging, fire or fire suppression. Credit: Andrew Hitchcock/Flickr The most common threat face by protected areas are unsustainable hunting and the collection of animals, recreational activities such as off-road vehicle access, cross-country skiing, mountain biking or hiking, logging, fire or fire suppression. Credit: Andrew Hitchcock/Flickr

A new study has found that protected areas (PA) across the world are the most threatened by unsustainable hunting, followed by tourism and forest fire. Published in Conservation Letters, it also states that the threat to the most remote forest is relatively low. Protected areas reported higher risk if they were in countries that suffered from corruption and a lower Human Development Index (HDI) score. 

Such threats can cause destruction, degradation of ecology and biodiversity of the PA.

Conservationists looked at around 2,000 PA spread across 149 countries. The most commonly identified threats across realm-biomes are unsustainable hunting and the collection of animals, recreational activities such as off-road vehicle access, cross-country skiing, mountain biking or hiking, logging, fire or fire suppression, and invasive species, said the report.

It also highlighted the difficulty in monitoring threats to PA. The authors used data from remote sensing techniques, such as satellites and caretakers of protected areas and other experts.

The types of threats are distinct in developed and developing regions. On one hand, hunting and the collection of animals was the most common threat in PAs in the Afro-tropical, Indo-Malaya, and Neo-tropical realms. On the other, the impact of recreational activities was reported as one of the two most common threats in PAs in all realms except the Afro-tropics.

Unsustainable hunting and negative impacts from recreational activities were the most commonly reported threats by protected area managers, occurring in 61 per cent and 55 per cent of all protected areas studied.

Threats from overexploitation, in particular hunting, were most prevalent in developing countries where local communities depend on hunting and resource collection for their livelihoods. 

“Wild meat hunting has provided an important source of food and income for local communities for millennia. However, in many areas hunting levels are now unsustainable, negatively impacting biodiversity and the rural communities which depend on it,” said Lauren Coad, one of the authors and a research associate at the Center for International Forestry Research. This has been a result of increasing human population, demand from urban centers and improved access to once remote areas, Coad added.

Authors also indicated that a potential solution could be a reduction of demand of wild meat in cities. In developed countries, threats were more likely from human disturbance through recreational activities, such as off-road vehicle access, cross-country skiing, mountain biking or hiking. These geographically distinct threats highlight the need for different solutions on the ground, including ensuring sustainable livelihoods for local communities and better management of visitor activities in protected areas.

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