You and Your CourseOpportunities
Research and Teaching
Our ResearchResearch Degrees
Partners and Community
Partner with JCU
- About JCUPartner with JCU
- Advanced Analytical Centre
- Association of Australian University Secretaries
- Australian Quantum & Classical Transport Physics Group
- Careers and Employability
- College of Healthcare Sciences
- College of Medicine and Dentistry
- Division of Tropical Environments and Societies
- International Students
- JCU Eduquarium
- JCU Halls of Residence
- Language and Culture Research Centre
- Marine Geophysics Laboratory
- Open Day
- Parents and Partners
- Pathways to University
- Planning and Performance
- Professional Experience Placement
- Rapid Assessment Unit
- JCU Connect
- Scholarships @ JCU
- Tropical Sustainable Design Case Studies
- VAVS Home
- Media & Comms
- Australian Institute of Tropical Health & Medicine
- About JCU
Featured News Growing threats to biodiversity arks
Growing threats to biodiversity arks
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, published in Nature.
“These reserves are like arks for biodiversity,” said Professor William Laurance, from James Cook University and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama.
“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.
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.
Professor Laurance said their conclusion was that while most reserves were helping to protect the forests, about half were struggling to sustain their original biodiversity.
“The scariest thing about our findings is just how widespread the declines of species are in the suffering reserves,” said Carolina Useche of the Humboldt Institute in Colombia,
“It’s not just a few groups that are hurting, but an alarmingly wide array of species,” she said.
These included big predators and other large-bodied animals, many primates, old-growth trees, and stream-dwelling fish and amphibians, among others.
The researchers found that reserves that were suffering most were those that were poorly protected and suffered encroachment from illegal colonists, hunters and loggers.
Kadiri Serge Bobo of the University of Dschang in Cameroon, Africa, said that it was not just what was happening inside a reserve that was important.
“Almost as important is what’s going on outside the reserve,” he said.
“Eighty-five per cent of the reserves we studied lost some nearby forest cover over the past two to three decades,” Dr Bobo said. “But only two per cent 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.
“For example, if a park has a lot of fires and illegal mining around it, those same threats can also penetrate inside it, to some degree,” Ms Useche said.
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. Such efforts will help ensure protected areas are more resilient to future threats such as climate change.
“We have no choice,” Professor Laurance said. “Tropical forests are the biologically richest real estate on the planet, and a lot of that biodiversity will vanish without good protected areas.”
Issued: July 26, 2012
JCU Media Liaison, Jim O’Brien 07 4781 4822
- James Cook University
- Bachelor of Advanced Science
- Bachelor of Arts
- Bachelor of Biomedical Sciences
- Bachelor of Business
- Bachelor of Business / Laws
- Bachelor of Business & Environmental Science
- Bachelor of Dental Surgery
- Bachelor of Early Childhood Education
- Bachelor of Primary Education
- Bachelor of Secondary Education
- Bachelor of Environmental Practice
- Bachelor of Geology
- Bachelor of Information Technology
- Bachelor of Laws
- Bachelor of Nursing Science (External)
- Bachelor of Midwifery
- Bachelor of Pharmacy
- Bachelor of Physiotherapy
- Bachelor of Planning
- Bachelor of Psychological Science
- Bachelor of Science
- Bachelor of Social Work
- Bachelor of Speech Pathology
- Bachelor of Sport & Exercise Science
- Bachelor of Veterinary Science
- Bachelor of Clinical Sciences (Honours)
- Bachelor of Engineering (Honours)
- Bachelor of Engineering / Science (Honours) MBA in Tourism
- Master of Public Health and Tropical Medicine
- Master of Data Science
- Bachelor of Sports Psychology
- Bachelor of Marine Science
- Bachelor of Medicine / Surgery
- Bachelor of Nursing Science [Pre-Registration]
- Bachelor of Medical Laboratory Science (Honours)
- Bachelor of Occupational Therapy (Honours)
- Bachelor of Psychology
- Master of Conflict Management & Resolution
- Graduate Certificate of Conflict Management & Resolution
- Master of Global Development
- Master of International Tourism & Hospitality Management
- Bachelor of Technology and Innovation
- Bachelor of Science & Bachelor of Laws
- Diploma of Higher Education
- Diploma of Higher Education (Business)
- Diploma of Higher Education Majoring in Business Studies
- Diploma of Higher Education Majoring in Engineering and Applied Science
- Diploma of Higher Education Majoring in General Studies
- Diploma of Higher Education Majoring in Health
- Diploma of Higher Education Majoring in Information Technology
- Diploma of Higher Education Majoring in Science
- Diploma of Higher Education, Majoring in Society and Culture