Anglia Ruskin scientist Trevor Jones contributes Tanzania data to Nature study
Many of the world's tropical protected areas are struggling to sustain their biodiversity, according to a study by more than 200 scientists from around the world just published in Nature.
Trevor Jones, a Research Fellow at Anglia Ruskin University, contributed data he has collected from the Udzungwa Mountains of southern Tanzania to the study, which shows that about half of reserves are struggling to sustain their original biodiversity.
Lead author Professor William Laurance, from James Cook University in Cairns, Australia, and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, said that
"these reserves are like arks for biodiversity."
"But some of the arks are in danger of sinking," he said, "even though they are our best hope to sustain tropical forests and their amazing biodiversity in perpetuity."
Professor Laurance and his team studied more than 30 different categories of species - from trees and butterflies to primates and large predators - within protected areas across the tropical Americas, Africa and Asia-Pacific.
Udzungwa red colobus
They estimated how these groups had changed in numbers over the past two to three decades, while identifying environmental changes that might threaten the reserves.
Trevor Jones has been studying large mammals in the Udzungwa Mountains of southern Tanzania since 2002, including endemic and endangered primates such as the Sanje mangabey, kipunji and Udzungwa red colobus, as well as elephants, leopards, duikers and hyrax.
Although his findings show that biodiversity is being maintained within the Udzungwa Mountains National Park, it is a different picture beyond the park's boundaries.
Jones' views are echoed by fellow author Dr Kadiri Serge Bobo, of the University of Dschang in Cameroon, who said that it is important to not only focus on what is happening within a reserve.
"Almost as important is what's going on outside it,Eighty-five percent of the reserves we studied lost some nearby forest cover over the past two to three decades. But only two percent saw an increase in surrounding forest."
Deforestation is advancing rapidly in tropical nations and most reserves are losing some or all of their surrounding forest. The team found many nature reserves acted like mirrors - partially reflecting the threats and changes in their surrounding landscapes.
The bottom line, the researchers say, is that a better job needs to be done in protecting the protected areas - and that means fighting both their internal and external threats, and building support for protected areas among local communities.
Professor Laurance added:
"We have no choice, tropical forests are the biologically richest real estate on the planet, and a lot of that biodiversity will vanish without good protected areas."