Biodiversity conservation requires large and strictly protected areas

by Aschwin Tenfelde, Utrecht University
March 24, 2022

Protecting habitats is increasingly used as a means of preserving biodiversity. But to what extent is this approach effective? A new study shows that the effect of protecting forest areas depends on both their size and protection status. The study was led by biologists Robert Timmers and Merel Soons of Utrecht University. Their findings are published today in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

Identifying suitable areas for protection

The results could help identify suitable areas for protection, according to the researchers. “Up until now, conservation measures have been applied mainly in large areas and intact areas,” says Timmers. “Our results indicate that this is most effective. But we also show that it makes sense to protect smaller areas in fragmented landscapes, especially when preserving endangered bird species. In smaller areas, however, strict protection is most effective.”

Birds as indicators

The researchers collected data from bird observations in more than 700 forest areas worldwide. The areas varied in size and protection status. “Birds are a good indicator of the effectiveness of protection,” says Timmers. “This is due to the large number of bird species, their global distribution, and the important roles they play within ecosystems. In addition, there are many high-quality measurements available on birds.”

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Read the Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment paper: