Land-cover change is perhaps the single greatest threat to biodiversity. The Protected Area (PA) network aims to protect key sites, including from adverse land-cover change and represents one of the major pillars of global biodiversity conservation. Despite the significance attached to PAs, including their central role in CBD reporting, their effectiveness in preventing anthropogenic land-cover change (especially in sites of objectively defined biodiversity value) remains uncertain, especially outside of forest habitats.
This project has used higher resolution remote sensing data to track changes in all natural land cover (not just forest) on a large sample of sites of conservation importance (BirdLife's Important Bird Areas) in Africa and in buffer zones surrounding them. The sample was stratified to include sites of high nature conservation value that fall within and outside the Protected Area network to assess whether rates of change in PAs differ from those in other areas of recognised conservation importance. Results indicate that protection is effective at reducing but not halting the loss of natural land cover. Correlates of the observed changes are currently being identified, in order to determine if we can identify particularly “at risk” areas.
This project was funded by the CCI Collaborative Fund for Conservation.