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As conservation scientists and practitioners converge on Sydney for the once-in-a-decade World Parks Congress, a Nature collection of news, comment, reviews and research explores priorities for protecting the planet.
Marine protected areas are an important and increasing component of marine conservation strategy, but their effectiveness is variable and much debated. These authors assemble data from a global sample of fished regions and 87 marine protected areas and demonstrate that the effectiveness of a protected area depends on five key properties: how much fishing is allowed, enforcement levels, how long protection has been in place, area and degree of isolation. Conservation is assured only when all five of these boxes have been ticked.
Protected areas are a key component of tropical forest conservation strategy, but how well are they performing? These authors assemble a large data set from 60 protected areas across the globe, assessing 31 functional groups of species and 21 drivers of environmental change. They find that about half of the reserves are succeeding but half are experiencing substantial losses of biodiversity, driven as much by environmental change outside the reserves as by change within them. To protect what remains of these habitats, the authors suggest that it is vital to establish sizeable buffer zones around reserves, maintain substantial reserve connectivity to other forest areas and promote low-impact land uses near reserves.
The 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, stimulated an explosion of research into how biodiversity loss influences the processes that underpin the goods and services that ecosystems provide to humanity. That research has established that biodiversity is crucial for ecosystem function, but just how the relationship works has been a source of controversy. This Review considers recent advances that are beginning to explain how biological diversity influences the functioning of ecosystems, and the provision of specific ecosystem services. The authors conclude that, together with management strategies such as payment for ecosystem services, the next generation of biodiversity science has the potential to bring the modern era of biodiversity loss to an end and to maintain a satisfactory level of ecosystem services.