- Press Release Distribution

Protecting lands slows biodiversity loss among vertebrates by five times

Effective government key to ensuring protected areas safeguard biodiversity

Protecting lands slows biodiversity loss among vertebrates by five times
( Protecting large swaths of Earth’s land can help stem the tide of biodiversity loss—including for vertebrates like amphibians, reptiles, mammals and birds, according to a new study published in Nature Sept. 27. The study, led by the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) and Conservation International, emphasizes the importance of proper governance for the success of protected lands, and offers much-needed support for the United Nations’ “30 by 30” initiative to conserve the world’s biodiversity.

Human activity has accelerated the natural extinction rate of vertebrates by 22 times. Such biodiversity loss can destabilize food webs and jeopardize the many benefits biodiversity provides to people, including crop pollination, healthy diets and disease control.

“Humans are inextricably dependent on biodiversity for survival,” said Justin Nowakowski, SERC conservation biologist and lead author of the study. “It provides food, fuel, fiber and other ecosystem services that we depend on for life.”

Class Struggles Nowakowski’s team captured data for over 1,000 species spanning every continent except Antarctica. They gathered their information from two databases: Living Planet and BioTIME, which contain biodiversity studies compiled from all over the world. The authors examined how 2,239 vertebrate populations fared over time, both inside and outside protected areas. To control for confounding variables, the authors took care that protected versus unprotected sites were as similar as possible in other respects.

On average, vertebrates declined 0.4% per year inside protected areas—nearly five times more slowly than vertebrates outside protected areas (1.8% per year).

"Protected areas take us from a situation in which biodiversity is not-so-slowly ebbing away, to one where populations are at least close to stable,” said Luke Frishkoff, coauthor and assistant professor of biology at the University of Texas at Arlington. “They buy us much-needed time to figure out how to reverse the biodiversity crisis.” At these rates, Frishkoff added, populations outside protected areas could see their numbers cut in half in just 40 years. Meanwhile, it would take 170 years for a population in a protected area to undergo the same fate.

Some vertebrate classes benefited more than others. Amphibians and birds inside protected lands enjoyed the biggest reprieves. The authors suspect this is because those classes face some of the biggest threats on the outside. For example, wetland birds are frequent victims of habitat loss. Amphibians, meanwhile, are dying in droves from the chytrid fungus while battling habitat loss and climate change. Their smaller sizes may contribute as well.

“Amphibians typically have fairly small home ranges, and they’re also really sensitive to small changes in the environment,” said coauthor Jessica Deichmann, an ecologist with the Liz Claiborne & Art Ortenberg Foundation. “So, with amphibians living within protected areas, you’re really able to protect more of the habitat that they’re utilizing than you are with, say, a mammal that has a really large home range.”

However, conversion of land nearby to agriculture or development diminished the benefits of protected areas, and climate change is compounding the problem. Reptiles were found to be especially vulnerable to climate change, even within protected areas. Amphibians suffered more from nearby land conversion. This makes connections between protected areas even more critical to conservation, the authors pointed out—especially as climate change continues to take its toll.

“Protected areas are tied to a specific place,” Nowakowski said. “But species are on the move….We need to design protected areas that are connected and account for this reality.”

Protectionist Politics This study validates the importance of the United Nations’ work to protect biodiversity. At the United Nations Biodiversity Conference last December, nearly 200 nations pledged to counter rapid extinctions by protecting 30% of Earth’s land and water by 2030. The “30 by 30” commitment created a rush to establish more protected areas. But merely addressing the amount of protected land is not enough according to many conservation experts. It is vital to confirm that protected areas are meeting their primary goal: conserving biodiversity within those areas.

“Countries can comply with 30 by 30 by creating ‘paper parks’ [parks that exist on maps but are largely ineffective],” Deichmann said. “But that will not achieve the desired outcomes of 30 by 30. This study helps us better understand how we can actually achieve 30 by 30, through the creation of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures.”

To work well, the data show that protected areas need one more crucial ingredient: a stable, effective government. When the authors ran their analyses, good governance had just as powerful an impact for vertebrates as living in a protected area.

Nations with effective governments often see better enforcement of environmental laws. Corruption-free governments are also less likely to misappropriate conservation money—and are therefore more likely to get international conservation money in the first place. Government transparency can help with community empowerment as well, according to coauthor Carlos Muñoz Brenes, a social scientist with Conservation International. When local communities have a voice in conservation laws, including about protected lands, those protections frequently work better.

But protected areas alone are not enough. Conservation scientists increasingly recognize that Earth needs a portfolio of approaches to safeguard biodiversity, especially in the face of rapid environmental changes.

“There are mechanisms that are more flexible, that could contribute to protecting those biodiversity values and ecosystem values outside protected areas,” Muñoz Brenes said.

As an example, Muñoz Brenes pointed to “payment for ecosystem services” programs. Costa Rica, where Muñoz Brenes was born, has run such a program since 1996. Under the program, funded by a national gas tax, landowners near protected areas receive a payment from the government to preserve forests on their property.

“We have been able to reverse deforestation in Costa Rica, and a great deal thanks to this program,” Muñoz Brenes said. “But not only that, we have been able to increase forest cover through this mechanism outside protected areas.” Other flexible measures include biological corridors and Indigenous-led protected areas that limit but do not entirely restrict human activity.

John Carroll University, the University of California, Davis, and the Zoological Society of London also contributed to the study. The article will be available after publication on the journal’s website. For photos, an advance copy of the study or to speak with one of the authors, contact Kristen Goodhue at


[Attachments] See images for this press release:
Protecting lands slows biodiversity loss among vertebrates by five times Protecting lands slows biodiversity loss among vertebrates by five times 2 Protecting lands slows biodiversity loss among vertebrates by five times 3


How an audience changes a songbird’s brain

How an audience changes a songbird’s brain
NEW YORK, NY — His mind might have been set on finding water or on perfecting a song he learned as a chick from his dad. But all of that gets pushed down the to-do list for an adult male zebra finch when he notices a female has drawn nigh.    “The males stop worrying about anything else and, for the first time, we have found signs of that re-prioritization in the behavior of specific brain cells,” said Vikram Gadagkar, PhD, a principal investigator at Columbia’s Zuckerman Institute and a co-first author, along with graduate student Andrea Roeser of Cornell ...

Organic lasers have a bright future

Scientists at St Andrews are leading a significant breakthrough in a decades-long challenge to develop compact laser technology. Lasers are used across the world for a huge range of applications in communications, medicine, surveying, manufacturing and measurement.  They are used to transmit information across the internet, for medical treatments, and even in the face scanner on phones.  Most of these lasers are made from rigid, brittle, semiconductor crystals such as gallium arsenide. Organic semiconductors are a newer class of electronic material. Flexible, based on carbon and emitting visible ...

Women’s mood worsens during ‘pill pause’ period of monthly contraceptive pill cycle

Type of work: peer-reviewed/observational study/people Barcelona: Most contraceptive pills are based on a cycle of taking the pill for 21 days, and then stopping the pill for 7 days. Now researchers have found that women’s mood worsens during the 7 pill-free days. This work will be presented at the ECNP congress in Barcelona on 8th October, after recent publication (see notes). Lead researcher, Professor Belinda Angela Pletzer (of Paris Lodron University, Salzburg, Austria) said “We investigated women’s mental health during the pill pause in long-term pill users: since they are long-term ...

Teams investigate material degradation process of carbon-based catalyst

Teams investigate material degradation process of carbon-based catalyst
Although a plethora of carbon-based catalysts have been developed to promote oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) in different electrochemical systems, the degradation process of those catalysts remains obscure to date. During certain steps of the ORR on a catalyst's surface in electrochemical systems, hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is generated. This compound can be detrimental to the catalyst itself because the highly oxidative species produced from H2O2 can attack different moieties of the catalyst, leading to the degradation of its chemical structure. A team of researchers has elucidated how H2O2 affects the degradation of a carbon-based catalyst named N-G/MOF. This catalyst ...

Team examines importance of zeolite in catalysts for syngas conversion

Team examines importance of zeolite in catalysts for syngas conversion
The fuels used today depend heavily on petroleum. As the demand grows, scientists are looking for ways to produce fuels that do not require petroleum. A research team set out to examine the role of zeolites in the conversion of synthetic gas to fuels. Wanting to better understand how zeolites regulate the reaction pathways, they reviewed the most recent advancements in synthetic gas conversion with catalysts containing zeolites.   Their review paper is published in the journal Carbon Future on July 28, 2023.   As an alternative ...

AI chest X-ray model analysis reveals race and sex bias

OAK BROOK, Ill. – An AI chest X-ray foundation model for disease detection demonstrated racial and sex-related bias leading to uneven performance across patient subgroups and may be unsafe for clinical applications, according to a study published today in Radiology: Artificial Intelligence, a journal of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA). The study aims to highlight the potential risks for using foundation models in the development of medical imaging artificial intelligence. “There’s ...

Integration propels machine vision

Integration propels machine vision
A joint research team in China wrote a review on in-sensor visual computing, a three-in-one hardware solution that is more efficient, economical and secure than conventional machine vision systems, which collect, store, and interpret visual signals on separate hardware units. This review was published Sept. 26 in Intelligent Computing, a Science Partner Journal. In-sensor visual computing systems are inspired by how humans and other mammals collect, extract and process visual signals, an intricate biological mechanism showing low latency and low energy cost. By integrating sensing, storage and computation onto the ...

Blocking abnormal stem cell signal during aging lessens related bone loss

A cellular signal essential to the development of the skeleton increases during aging to weaken bones, finds a new study in mice.  The study, led by researchers from NYU Grossman School of Medicine, found that blocking the signaling pathway, called Notch, in aging skeletal stem cells caused a “massive increase” in bone mass and restored lost bone-healing ability during aging.    The study results revolve around immature stem cells, which have the capacity to mature into more than one cell type. Bone is among the tissues that keep pools of stem cells on hand into adulthood, ready to mature into replacement cells that maintain healthy tissue and repair ...

Henry Ford Health first in Michigan to introduce advanced prostate diagnostic technology

Henry Ford Health first in Michigan to introduce advanced prostate diagnostic technology
DETROIT (Sept. 27, 2023) – Henry Ford Health is the first health system in Michigan to offer ExactVu, a cutting-edge technology for diagnosing and evaluating prostate cancer. Enhancing the precision and speed of diagnosis, this new technology ensures patients receive timely and appropriate care, while also providing a more efficient and convenient experience than other diagnostic methods. "Throughout the years, advancements in prostate cancer diagnostic and treatment modalities have made a tremendous difference for patients,” said Craig Rogers, M.D., Chair of the Department of Urology at Henry Ford Cancer. “This is ...

Resolving a seeming contradiction, study advances understanding of visual recognition memory

Resolving a seeming contradiction, study advances understanding of visual recognition memory
Because figuring out what is new and what is familiar in what we see is such a critically important ability for prioritizing our attention, neuroscientists have spent decades trying to figure out how our brains are typically so good at it. Along the way they’ve made key observations that seem outright contradictory, but a new study shows that the mystifying measures are really two sides of the same coin, paving the way for a long-sought understanding of “visual recognition memory” (VRM). VRM is the ability to quickly recognize the familiar things in scenes, which can then be de-prioritized so that we can focus on the new things that might be more important ...


ASH: Novel combination therapy significantly reduces spleen volume in patients with myelofibrosis

ASH: Novel menin inhibitors show promise for patients with advanced acute myeloid leukemias

ASH: Targeted oral therapy reduced disease burden and improved symptoms for patients with rare blood disorder

New Sylvester cancer study provides insight into underlying gene mutations in myelodysplastic syndromes

First-in-human clinical trial of CAR T cell therapy with new binding mechanism shows promising early responses

Long-term results show combination treatment that skips chemotherapy is effective for older patients with Ph+ ALL

Mindfulness could help women with opioid use disorder better control drug urges

TTUHSC’s ARPA-H membership will spur innovation, improve access for West Texas patients

Global annual finance flows of $7 trillion fueling climate, biodiversity, and land degradation crises

Tracing how the infant brain responds to touch with near-infrared spectroscopy

These are the world's most effective charities

When is an aurora not an aurora?

Advisory panel issues field-defining recommendations for US government investments in particle physics research

Doctors discover many patients at UNC’s Inflammatory Bowel Disease Clinic screen positive for malnutrition

BNL: Advisory panel issues field-defining recommendations for U.S. government investments in particle physics research

International collaboration uses faculty member’s research on ancient Roman migration, seeks to understand Balkan genomic history

USF Health Heart Institute doctors are upbeat about cardiac regeneration

AI-driven breakthroughs in cells study: SFU-UBC collaboration introduces "MCS-detect" for advancements in super-resolution microscopy

Advisory panel issues field-defining recommendations for investments in particle physics research

$3.8 million NIH grant to fund Southwest Center on Resilience for Climate Change and Health

What happens when the brain loses a hub? 

Study reveals Zika’s shape-shifting machinery—and a possible vulnerability

RIT leading STEM co-mentoring network

Genetic mutations that promote reproduction tend to shorten human lifespan, study shows

CAMH develops potential new drug treatment for multiple sclerosis

Polyethylene waste could be a thing of the past

A dynamic picture of how we respond to high or low oxygen levels

University of Toronto researchers discover new lipid nanoparticle that shows muscle-specific mRNA delivery, reduces off-target effects.

Evolving insights in blood-based liquid biopsies for prostate cancer interrogation

Finding the most heat-resistant substances ever made

[] Protecting lands slows biodiversity loss among vertebrates by five times
Effective government key to ensuring protected areas safeguard biodiversity