Protected areas

Part A – Protected areas (PA): Introduction This section we’ll be discussing PA management. Given that the field of conservation biology historically – and still currently – places so much emphasis on PA’s, this is an important topic! In today’s world, conditions can change quickly that directly or indirectly affect PAs, and sometimes those changes are hard to address at the park level. PAs face a variety of threats – some local, such as poaching, introduced species, illegal grazing or land conversion, and some global, such as climate change and ocean acidification. Some threats are somewhere in the middle; for example, a river that is extremely polluted upstream of and in a different jurisdiction than the PA might make effective park management trickier because some of the threats the PA faces are not under the direct control of the park’s staff. As you might imagine, PA management is a complex process, so care must be given to every decision. For example, unintended consequences from management decisions – killing off predators to protect game species, resulting in a trophic cascade, or fire suppression for ecosystems that require periodic fires to function, for example – can ultimately put the PA in jeopardy. It’s also important to remember that parks are not all the same – as your book mentions, a smaller PA in a built-up area will require different management than a large PA in a remote area. No matter the type or size of a PA, however, adaptive management should be used to determine whether or not the management plan is working. As part of this, baseline data is needed to know what a park contains and how it is functioning before management plans are implemented. The problem, of course, is that all of this requires funding and other resources, and those are often severely lacking. In some cases, parks have to be very actively managed. For example, in some places controlled fires are essential to ensure that all successional stages of an area are present in the park, as otherwise, key ecosystem functions and species might be missing. In other cases, managers might supplement keystone or otherwise important species by providing extra food, water, or shelter.