By Bob Pressey, Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University
On land and in the sea, we’re losing sight of what nature conservation is about. We’ve become dangerously focused on protected areas, but rarely consider what they’re supposed to achieve. One result is that biodiversity is declining almost everywhere while protected areas expand.
Why the apparent paradox? An important reason is that protected areas tend to be in the wrong places. On land, it’s a safe generalisation that protected areas are biased to “residual” places – those with least promise for commercial uses. In some regions, this is because only residual landscapes survive in anything like their natural state.