Protected areas are not permanent, but vulnerable to government policy


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Copyright: Eduardo Martino / Panos

Growth boom puts nature reserves at risk

Speed read

  • 10 per cent of Brazil’s protected habitat is affected by downgrading, downsizing or decommissioning
  • Hydropower and infrastructure development are to blame for the trend, also seen in India
  • A database aims to show that protected areas worldwide need constant attention

Brazil’s nature reserves are rapidly being downsized, downgraded or entirely decommissioned as the country develops, researchers have shown.

The number of so-called PADDD events — Protected Area Downgrade, Downsize or Degazetting — in Brazil is booming, and 10 per cent of nature reserves are now affected, according to a team of scientists speaking at the World Conservation Congress in Hawaii on 3 September. Their conclusions are based on data collected via, a website run by the wildlife charity WWF.

“We want to show that protected areas are not permanent.In fact they are vulnerable to government policy, for example [when] putting commercial tourism into protected areas.”

Mike Mascia, WWF

The data shows that, since 1979, 67 nature reserves in Brazil have been downgraded, reduced in size or cancelled entirely to make way for infrastructure projects and industry, resulting in 112,400 square kilometres of habitat loss. Nearly half of this is down to degazetting — when the protection on a certain habitat is lifted officially.

Another 60 PADDD events are in the pipeline, covering an additional 180,000 square kilometres, says Rodrigo Medeiros, vice president of the NGO Conservation International in Brazil.

Read the full story: SciDevNet

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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