Vertebrates and protected areas

Cantú-Salazar, L., Orme, C.D.L., Rasmussen, P.C., Blackburn, T.M. & Gaston, K.J. 2013. The performance of the global protected area system in capturing vertebrate geographic ranges. Biodiversity and Conservation 22, 1033-1047.

Given the heavy reliance placed on and investment in protected areas for biological conservation, there has been much debate as to how effective these are in representing biodiversity features within their boundaries. The majority of studies addressing this issue have been conducted on a regional or national basis, precluding a broad picture of patterns of representation at the species level. We present a global assessment of the representation of the terrestrial geographic ranges of complete taxonomic groups: all known extant amphibians, birds and mammals (20,736 species) within the current global system of protected areas. We conclude that it is necessary substantially to improve the levels of coverage of the geographic ranges of the majority of species, even the widespread ones. This is particularly true for rare species, which might be assumed to be foci for protected area systems. To improve on the low levels of coverage of vertebrate ranges attained by the existing areas, key regions should be targeted, but heavy reliance will also have to be placed on approaches to sustaining populations in the wider, unprotected landscape.