National parks DON’T always boost biodiversity, British Ecological Society report claims


Funded by central government, the UK’s National Parks are specifically designed to conserve and enhance natural beauty, wildlife, and cultural heritage.

But a new study has warned that National Parks – such as the Yorkshire Dales, Cairngorms and Snowdonia – don’t always boost biodiversity.

Researchers from the British Ecological Society (BES) say that only five per cent of protected land is ‘delivering for nature.’

In a new report launched today, BES warns that more action is needed to meet the government’s ’30×30′ target, which aims to protect 30 per cent of the UK’s land and sea by 2030.

A new study has warned that National Parks – such as the Yorkshire Dales (pictured), Cairngorms and Snowdonia – don’t always boost biodiversity

The UK’s National Parks 

There are 15 National Parks in the UK and each one has been designated as a protected landscape because of its special qualities:

England

Broads, Dartmoor, Exmoor, Lake District, New Forest, Northumberland, North York Moors, Peak District, South Downs and Yorkshire Dales

Wales 

Brecon Beacons, Pembrokeshire Coast, and Snowdonia

Scotland

Cairngorms and Loch Lomond & The Trossachs

The 15 National Parks have thousands of kilometres of public rights of way over 1,300km of which is designated as suitable for those of us with accessibility issues – giving people incredible opportunities to explore these amazing spaces.

Source: National Parks UK 

Currently, 27 per cent of UK land and 38 per cent of UK seas are under some level of protection.

However, many protected areas are not delivery for nature and are in poor ecological condition, according to the report.

Dr Joseph Bailey at York St John University and lead author of the report said: ‘Designating an area of land or sea does not automatically make it an effective protected area.

‘Designation is simply the first step in a long process towards ensuring that long-term ecological benefits are delivered for nature and people.

‘To be effective, a protected area needs adequate implementation, enforcement, monitoring, and long-term protection.

‘The 30×30 target presents such a good opportunity and we can’t let is pass us by. Climate change is here, and we must start now if we want our land and seas to deliver for nature.’

While National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and other protected areas currently make up 27 per cent of UK land, the repot claims that the proportion of land that is effectively protected could be as low as five per cent.

Professor Jane Hill at the University of York and author of the report said: ‘The evidence is that most protected landscapes are not delivering for nature and only a low percentage are in good ecological condition.

‘However, because there is existing governance in place managing these landscapes, they have great potential to be adapted to improve how they deliver for nature.

‘With the right support and willingness, nature can recover and thrive in almost any landscape. If the objectives of protected landscapes like National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty can be reformed to ensure that they deliver for nature in the long-term, they could then count towards the ’30×30′ target.’

Likewise, while 38 per cent of UK seas are under some level of protection, the report warns that many of these areas have no current management measures in place.

‘The proposal to protect 30 per cent of UK seas is very welcome, but we need effective management measure in place in Marine Protected Areas which will protect wildlife and benefit local coastal communities,’ said Rick Stafford of Bournemouth University and author of the report.

There are 15 National Parks in the UK and each one has been designated as a protected landscape because of its special qualities

There are 15 National Parks in the UK and each one has been designated as a protected landscape because of its special qualities

What should count towards the ’30×30′ target? 

For protected areas to deliver for nature and be included in the ’30×30′ target, the report recommends the following criteria:

  1. Protected areas must be managed to deliver for nature in the long term, using evidence-based approaches.
  2. Protected areas should have effective governance to address pressures such as climate change, pollution, and damaging fishing activities.
  3. Have monitoring in place that informs the long-term management of protected areas so that they meet conservation goals. This will require substantial and sustained funding and resourcing.
  4. Protected areas should be inclusive to benefit local people and ensure buy-in. The governance of protected areas should involve local communities in partnership with landowners, NGOs, researchers, government agencies, and other stakeholders.

‘The lack of comprehensive management or enforcement means that the majority are failing to deliver for nature and bring the full range of biodiversity benefits they otherwise could.’

The report recommends that several criteria should be put in place for protected areas to by included in the 30×30 target.

This includes being managed to deliver for nature in the long-term, having effective governance to address pressures such as climate change, and being inclusive to benefit local people.

‘Protected areas have suffered from not having enough resources and having to make too many compromises. This has left them in a position where they are not doing enough to support nature,’ said Dr Paul Sinnadurai of the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority and Cardiff University, and author of the report.

‘To turn this around, money and resources need be made available for consistent monitoring. During the late 1990s and early noughties, there was a good advance in the use of the Common Standards for Monitoring in protected areas, but momentum wasn’t maintained in this essential practice because it is resource intensive.

‘For effectively protected areas to be successful, they must also be inclusive. To do this we need to have conversations with landowners and local people and ensure nature recovery works for everyone. Nobody should lose out to something benefiting nature.’

The report adds that landscapes surrounding protected areas are also very important – particularly with species ranges shifting in response to climate change.

‘We need to make sure landscapes are suitable for species to move between highly protected areas. This could be done with wildlife corridors such as hedgerows,’ Dr Bailey added.

‘Protected areas simply won’t work if we only have desolate wastelands between them.

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