The protected areas entail national parks, wildlife reserves, hunting reserves, and conservation areas. The regions conserve the environment, thereby targeting the species, genetic, and ecosystem diversity.

The natural resources covered as a part of the protected areas undoubtedly are very mesmerizing and seek massive attraction from the people worldwide.

Supportive research findings

The research findings by the IUCN lamented that 238,563 designated protected areas had been established so far all around the world as of July 2018.

The research revealed that species richness accounted for a 10.6 % and 14.5 % increase in the species’ abundance in the samples taken inside the protected areas globally. The richness and the quantity of the species got recorded less outside the protected areas.

Once the protected forest is adequately managed, it has a wide array of merits entailing both the ecosystem and nature conservation and balancing of the ecosystem, preservation of the species habitat, food, and water security, halving the diseases, and many more. 

For instance: Chitwan National Park of Nepal has got notable success in conserving nature, conserving the species ecosystem, and promoting ecotourism.

The one-horned rhinoceros has increased from 107 to 752 within five years in Nepal. It’s possible due to the establishment of Chitwan National Park situated in Chitwan, Nepal.

Significances

1. Conservation of the vital species gene pool

The protected area preserves various species | Sketch Credit: SIWI

It’s not sure that the species will exist for a prolonged period. The species living in an ecosystem may wipe away several pandemic diseases. 

The species may be on the brink of extinction and lose forever. Thus, the protection significantly contributes to preserving the species’ genetic pool. 

Protected areas protect an organism’s genetic morphology with several conservation activities such as translocation of the species and the research concerning the genetic characteristics and their effects on the organism.

Once the species do translocate after the successful efforts of the protected areas officials, they may adapt to the new environment and get relief from the past activities which threaten their survival. 

To conserve the genetic characteristics of an organism for a long time, we need to pay great attention to the carrying capacity that the protected areas could hold.

Additionally, once the flora and wildlife habitat shrinks, it can’t adjust the carrying capacity. Therefore, considering this situation, the protected areas are inevitable in preserving the species’ genetic pool and future generations.

2. Research

In devoid of the research on the protected areas regarding the species and the resources, we cannot conclude the past and current status and distribution of the species, the level of the habitat, and the deteriorating condition of the protected areas.

The conservation actions are required to launch to ensure the species and their habitats besides the natural resources offered by the protected areas.

It creates awareness in the local community and seeks urgency to preserve nature, including entailing the flora, fauna, and habitat. 

Through conducting the research only, we could understand the actual scenario of the protected areas, such as how indigenous communities have supported the nature conservation activities, the habitat shrinkage, and encroachment rate in the forest.

Based on the research findings, we can implement the actions required to conserve the species and their habitats. 

Research in the protected areas accounts for studying the minimal viable population (MVP) of the species, species richness, and abundance with the ecosystem services to promote the tourism sector and make it known worldwide.

3. Indigenous knowledge and values

Indigenous Knowledge and its subset | Illustration Credit: Christopher A. Armatas

In recent years, the launching of the community forestry approach in the national parks has achieved massive success in respecting indigenous cultures.

Indigenous people have unique ideas and knowledge to preserve their environment, thereby utilizing the locally available resources as far as possible and grabbing the information on how to conserve the forest in a sustainable method.

For instance, the local people identify the medicinal and aromatic herbs, worship several plants and animal species, and share their sayings in the decision-making process. 

The local communities have a crucial contribution to preserving the trees for a prolonged period, ways to halt and control the soil erosion effectively, techniques to harvest the timber sustainably, and identification of the medicinal and aromatic plants. 

Apart from these, in the forest and the wildlife conservation, local participation from the marginalized and the indigenous communities seems imperative. 

4. Resilience to climate change

Protected areas harbor forest, air, water, flora, fauna, and many more; they sequester the carbon, balancing the carbon rate emitted to the atmosphere and the carbon removed from the atmosphere. 

Carbon sequestration reduces greenhouse gases (GHGs) emitted in the atmosphere. Once the climate gets altered over time, the species adapt to the changing environment, possibly due to protected areas.

5. Ecosystem services

Ecosystem services offered by protected areas | Infographics Credit: Life VIVA Grass

Protected areas offer numerous ecosystem services such as regulating, provisioning, cultural, and supporting services. 

As the direct products of the ecosystem, we can utilize it sustainably under the leadership of the national government from the protected areas. 

It has highly assisted in flood control, disease outbreaks, nutrient cycling, and balancing the natural climate and heat mechanisms. Until and unless nature is not protected, it lacks the services provided by the ecosystem.

Besides this, the ecosystem services of the protected areas contribute to the primary production, pollination, control of the soil erosion, regulation of the air, water, and soil quality, and many more. 

6. Ecotourism

Globally, ecotourism is one of the forms of tourism associated with the natural environment. 

In countries such as Nepal, the ecotourism promoted by the protected areas includes conserving the naturally pristine environment and poverty alleviation activities. 

It permits several nations to build their economies without negatively influencing their actions.

The best part of the ecotourism led by the protected areas is that, on the one hand, it does conserve nature and promotes nature conservation. 

On the other hand, it does assure the equitable sharing of the benefits raised from the natural resources inside the protected areas. 

Upon community participation, the natural resources are utilized sustainably and at maximum.

Once ecotourism is launched inside the protected areas such as national parks and wildlife reserves, it promotes the local cultures. It boosts awareness activities intending to conserve the environment.

7. Disease control

Emerging Zoonotic diseases | Infographics Credit: Frontiers

The world has already faced zoonotic diseases such as Ebola, SARS-CoV-2, and Lyme. The healthy ecosystems of the protected areas assure us safety against the prevention of zoonotic disease, which transfers from animal to humans. 

Zoonotic disease has become a public concern in wildlife conservation and nature conservation. 

Avoiding bushmeat consumption and the control of the illegal wildlife trade could reduce zoonotic diseases in the protected areas.

We should separate the remaining wildlife in the zoonotic disease outbreak from the disease’s animals. 

They should translocate them to other areas so that their genetic makeup will be preserved for a prolonged time and control the zoonotic disease, although not at maximum. 

In the settlements, promoting sanitation and awareness programs seems imperative where the interaction between the humans and the wildlife near the protected areas is frequent. 

Indeed, researchers revealed that the biodiversity study in the protected areas is confined chiefly to the hazards caused by the zoonotic diseases; instead of the zoonotic risks that are visualized in the coming days. It also seeks urgency to take action at the species and the genetic level.

8. Outdoor recreation

Protected areas offer a wide array of outdoor recreation. We could benefit at maximum from canoeing, camping, and hiking the natural areas with the permission of protected area authorities. 

Rock climbing seems to be very familiar in recent days. Canoeing and rock climbing promote the tourism industry well, which is foremost in increasing the revenue within the country.

9. Basic local livelihoods

Protected Area of India sustaining livelihood | Infographics Credit: Wildlife Conservation Trust

Protected areas are the inclusion of several natural resources. The local livelihood directly or indirectly relies on the resources available inside the protected areas. 

The buffer zone and the community forest user groups maximize their profit by sustainably utilizing the forest and water resources. 

The food (fruits), drinking water, fuelwood, pulpwood, honey, harvesting of the timber, extraction of the medicinal and the aromatic plants (MAPs), non-timber forest products, purified air, and fodder are achieved from the protected areas.

Since the protected areas are governed under the national government, the locals could benefit from the resources at maximum, under specific regulations and criteria. 

Conclusion

Conservation of the protected areas entails all the species, genetic, and ecosystem diversity globally. 

Supporting the indigenous rights and including them in women empowerment and decision-making activities are foremost.

It seems substantial to launch effective transboundary conservation measures. In a nutshell, the contribution of protected areas in environment conservation is imperative. 

Unless we are not serious about the conservation measures, we will inevitably be losing our biological property. 

The protected areas undoubtedly assure biodiversity conservation. Thus, it confirms the positive merits of humans and the widespread species in the coming days.

(Last Updated on February 20, 2022 by Sadrish Dabadi)

Kalpana Ghimire holds a post-graduate degree in Environmental Science from Nepal. She possesses numerous research experiences working in water pollution, community forestry, environment conservation status, and wildlife ecology. She was an internee in the Department of Environment (EIA monitoring and auditing section) under the Government of Nepal. Kalpana Ghimire is an avid traveler, an enthusiastic wildlife researcher, and has a huge passion for working in the environment sector. She loves far traveling to the natural areas, conducting field wildlife research and reading the novels.