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John Wilson; Richard Primack

Published On


Page Range

pp. 465-518

Print Length

53 pages

13. The Importance of Protected Areas

Establishing protected areas is the most effective method for safeguarding biodiversity. Seventeen percent of Sub-Saharan Africa’s land surface is included in over 7,500 protected areas, with new reserves and parks regularly designated. On contrast, only 7% of the region’s marine and coastal environments are protected, with protection highly uneven among countries. Government agencies and conservation organisations set priorities for establishing new protected areas based on the relative distinctiveness, endangerment, and utility of a species or ecosystems. Many protected areas are established to preserve species of special significance, unique ecosystems, wilderness areas, and concentrations of threatened species. While protected areas have previously been designed haphazardly, conservation biologists are developing guidelines for designing more effective protected areas. Through a monitoring process, they can receive needed information to evaluate whether management activities are achieving their intended objectives or need to be adapted. As general guidelines, protected areas should be large whenever possible, and should not be fragmented, and conservation planners should aim to create linked networks of conservation areas to encourage wildlife dispersal. Moreover, managing interactions with local people and visitors is critical to the success of protected areas and should be part of a management plan. To obtain and maintain local support, managements plans should consider benefit sharing and co-management partnerships.