Ecological mechanisms linking protected areas to surrounding lands.

Ecology Department, Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana 59717-3460, USA.
Ecological Applications (Impact Factor: 4.13). 07/2007; 17(4):974-88. DOI: 10.1890/05-1098
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Land use is expanding and intensifying in the unprotected lands surrounding many of the world's protected areas. The influence of this land use change on ecological processes is poorly understood. The goal of this paper is to draw on ecological theory to provide a synthetic framework for understanding how land use change around protected areas may alter ecological processes and biodiversity within protected areas and to provide a basis for identifying scientifically based management alternatives. We first present a conceptual model of protected areas embedded within larger ecosystems that often include surrounding human land use. Drawing on case studies in this Invited Feature, we then explore a comprehensive set of ecological mechanisms by which land use on surrounding lands may influence ecological processes and biodiversity within reserves. These mechanisms involve changes in ecosystem size, with implications for minimum dynamic area, species-area effect, and trophic structure; altered flows of materials and disturbances into and out of reserves; effects on crucial habitats for seasonal and migration movements and population source/sink dynamics; and exposure to humans through hunting, poaching, exotics species, and disease. These ecological mechanisms provide a basis for assessing the vulnerability of protected areas to land use. They also suggest criteria for designing regional management to sustain protected areas in the context of surrounding human land use. These design criteria include maximizing the area of functional habitats, identifying and maintaining ecological process zones, maintaining key migration and source habitats, and managing human proximity and edge effects.

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    ABSTRACT: High-biodiversity landscapes around the globe are under immense pressure due to the expansion of human activities. To ensure effective monitoring and management of such landscapes, it is necessary to integrate landscape composition and the associated socio-economic processes in the conservation schemes. Artificial Night-Time Light (ANTL) pollution is a recent but striking environmental alteration due to human interventions. It is a major threat for species and communities which co-evolved with invariant natural light patterns over geological times. In spite of its potential key role in re-shaping natural systems, ANTL is seldom considered in macroecology. Remote sensing provides a unique set of tools to integrate ANTL in macroecological studies. In this work, we used remote sensing data of night-time lights along with Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVI) to study the effects and extent of ANTL in the night-time landscape (nightscape) of two protected areas in Italy. Our results showed that a considerable number of semi-natural vegetated patches suffer from ANTL pollution with varying magnitude. We observed a decline in highly suitable patches for biodiversity while the remaining patches were found concentrated in the innermost part of the parks. By simulating an exponential decrease in ANTL we showed that a moderate reduction in ANTL pollution would result in regaining a substantial amount of highly suitable patches for biodiversity. The decline in homogeneous dark patches in vegetated landscapes has negative impacts on biodiversity as well as on the ecosystem services it provides. Therefore, it is high time that the scientific community and the policy-makers increase their efforts to monitor and mitigate the ecological impacts of ANTL on ecosystems. The integration of light pollution in landscape ecology could combine remote sensing with other aspects of light pollution like indirect propagation and spectral composition.
    Ecological Complexity 06/2015; 22:109-120. DOI:10.1016/j.ecocom.2015.02.008 · 2.00 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: EXECUTIVE SUMMARY The Amazon Region contains both the largest block of contiguous tropical forest and the largest river system in the world, spanning 6.5 million km2 of forests in the Amazon, Guiana Shield and Orinoco Basin and the 6.9 million km2 Amazon watershed. The Amazon River network is the lifeblood of the regional economy, providing the primary means of food and energy production, transportation, and other vital ecosystem services. At its mouth, the Amazon discharges about 6,700km3 yr-1 of freshwater into the Atlantic Ocean, about 20 per cent of global surface river flows. The Basin’s native forests and savannahs recycle 50-75 per cent of regional rainfall back to the atmosphere via evapotranspiration and help regulate the regional climate. These hydrological connections help maintain over 1 million km2 of freshwater ecosystems, which sustain a wealth of biological diversity and productive fisheries that are a vital source of protein and income for Amazonians. Amazon freshwater ecosystems are connected to the ocean, atmosphere and terrestrial ecosystems via the hydrological cycle. The amount and seasonality of rainfall in the region is controlled primarily by the South American Monsoon System and the trade winds, which regulate moisture transfer from the Atlantic Ocean to the Amazon Basin. The remaining rainfall drains terrestrial ecosystems via surface runoff, carrying with it organic and inorganic materials that shape freshwater ecosystem structure and fuel aquatic biological production processes. Additional interactions between freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems occur via the lateral exchange of organic and inorganic matter during seasonal floods, as water levels rise and flood adjacent riparian zones, and when overhanging vegetation drops fruits, leaves or insects into rivers and lakes. As river water flows downstream, it transports these terrestrial inputs, thereby connecting freshwater ecosystems longitudinally from the headwaters to the ocean. Forests and freshwater are mutually dependent, through the connections, for their ecosystem health. Together they are crucial to the climate stability. Today the Amazon faces unprecedented development pressures. Dam construction, mining, oil and gas exploration and exploitation, new accesses and land-cover changes (Figure 1) are increasingly degrading Amazon freshwater ecosystems, disrupting the magnitude and timing of hydrological flows. Across the Amazon, 154 hydroelectric dams are currently in operation, 21 are under construction and ~277 are in the planning stages. If all go forward as planned, the Amazon network of power plants will have an installed capacity of ~95,000MW, and only three free-flowing tributaries will remain. At the same time, agriculture and ranching have expanded dramatically in the region, particularly in the Brazilian Amazon, and almost 20 per cent of the Biome has already been deforested. Mining (e.g. gold, bauxite, iron ore) and hydrocarbon extraction are also expanding rapidly, particularly in the Andes and Guianas. Energy-intensive aluminum and steel smelters often drive demand for new hydroelectric power in the region. The resulting dams are associated with myriad socio-environmental impacts such as deforestation, displacement of local populations and greenhouse gas emissions. The cumulative effects of these hydrological alterations could irreversibly alter the hydrology, geomorphology and ecological integrity of Amazon freshwater ecosystems. Despite their regional and global importance, many of the Amazon Region’s freshwater ecosystems are not enough protected and have been largely ignored in the mainstream science and policy arenas. As a result, the data and management structures needed to conserve them are virtually non-existent. Amazon protected areas have been historically biased toward terrestrial conservation and are increasingly vulnerable to other uses (e.g. dams, mining, oil extraction) within their borders. In most Amazonian countries, environmental licensing processes lack transparency and are prone to corruption. Although some national water resource legislation exists, in general these laws fail to address the hydrological connectivity and integrity of freshwater ecosystems and are often fragmented in their goals. Even so, if fully implemented, some of these laws (e.g. Peru’s Forest and Fauna Law, Brazil’s Forest Code, and Colombia comprehensive framework for watershed management) facilitate coordinated landscape management that could benefit freshwater ecosystems. The threats to the connectivity of Amazon freshwater ecosystems operate across multiple scales, as do efforts to curb their impacts and conserve freshwater resources. Conservation of these ecosystems requires a delicate balance between these opposing forces and a coordinated effort to overcome the barriers to Biome and Basin-scale conservation planning. Maintaining Amazon hydrologic connectivity and freshwater ecosystem function will require integrated management of terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems and, in many cases, international cooperation. A lack of consistent ecological and social data across the Amazon remains a critical barrier to such integrated management, making it impossible to quantify the true costs of development activities and hindering efforts to evaluate the potential impacts of proposed projects. Developing better baseline data, mechanisms for international coordination and an integrated management framework will be crucial to mitigate the impacts of human activities and maintain freshwater ecosystem connectivity and function for future generations. Threats to the freshwater ecosystem health are not limited to hydropower, but this sector is a considerable part of the problem and could be part of the solutions. Some textboxes in this report present the potential worst scenario, as in the case of Tocantins, example of a potential positive path and at the same time considerable risks, in the case of Tapajós, both basins in Brazil. RECOMMENDATIONS A key objective of WWF’s Living Amazon Initiative is to transform the way hydropower development is conducted in the Amazon by 2020. WWF is committed to developing constructive dialogues among civil society, industry, the finance sector and governments in order to enable sustainable hydropower programmes, should they be necessary, and associated territorial development plans. In order to achieve this objective and reorient development in the Amazon Region toward a more sustainable path, new measures are necessary to mitigate threats to and alleviate pressures on the Amazon freshwater ecosystems. Through its Living Amazon Initiative, WWF proposes a set of key recommendations to be adopted and implemented by decision makers in governments, the private and finance sectors, and the wider societies of the nine countries that share the Amazon Biome (Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, Venezuela and French Guiana). A summarized version of the recommendations (chapter 7) can be found below: KEY RECOMMENDATIONS RELATED TO: FRESHWATER ECOSYSTEMS AND HYDROLOGICAL CONNECTIVITY • Adopt an integrated vision of Amazon sustainable development and nature conservation. • Develop an overarching regional policy framework for ecosystem conservation and watershed management. • Incorporate the maintenance of ecological flows as a critical goal of decision-making related to land and water use, regional development, and environmental licensing. • Designate new protected areas that increase ecological representation of freshwater ecosystems. • Create or improve legal instruments for the designation of “protected rivers” as a special type of officially designated nature protected area. • Mitigate the direct and indirect impacts of hydropower development projects. • Promote greater international recognition of Amazon freshwater ecosystems. • Sign and ratify the United Nations Watercourses Convention. • Develop a regional strategic plan to maintain connectivity from the Andean highlands to the Amazon lowlands and from all headwaters to estuary. ECOSYSTEM SERVICES AND SOCIAL IMPACTS • Consider the water, food and energy security of Amazon communities. • Ensure informed, free and democratic participation of local communities, including indigenous peoples, in all decisions related to energy and infrastructure development. • Monitor the effects of hydropower development on freshwater ecosystem function, subsistence activities and human well-being. • Respect the rights of indigenous peoples and other traditional communities to their land, water and resources. • Gather better scientific information on migratory fish strategies. MANAGING ECOLOGICAL IMPACTS • Step up efforts to improve compliance with existing legislation on ecosystem protection, with particular attention to freshwater ecosystems. • Implement policies and voluntary standards aimed at achieving zero net ecosystem conversion and degradation (including deforestation, forest degradation and transformation of freshwater ecosystems) by 2020. • Evaluate the cumulative ecological and social impact of dams and associated infrastructure on whole river basins as part of the viability and environmental impact assessments of infrastructure projects. • Assess the potential ecological impacts of the full portfolio of proposed government projects, in terms of both hydrological alteration and forest loss. • Address the drivers of ecosystem conversion and ecological degradation through multi-stakeholder dialogue, exchange of lessons learned and coordinated actions across political boundaries. • Identify and address the ongoing deficiencies that undermine environmental licensing processes. MONITORING AND EVALUATION • Support scientific institutions, strengthening their ability to generate and disseminate reliable and consistent ecological, social and potential impact data for monitoring ecosystem health and social rights and sustainable development, including at the Amazon-wide level. • Produce better ecological and social baseline data to evaluate the impacts of dams, other infrastructure and projects, and deforestation on Amazon connectivity. • Develop meaningful, measurable ecological, social and economic indicators. INTEGRATED APPROACHES WWF believes that integrated approaches (textbox page 114) are needed: to monitor Amazon freshwater ecosystems; plan the use and occupation of Amazon landscapes (terrestrial and freshwater); respect rights and promote social inclusion (especially of indigenous and other traditional communities); and to plan hydropower development in the Amazon. 1) An integrated approach to monitoring Amazon freshwater ecosystems can lead to improved conservation and sustainable use of these areas, as well as to the maintenance of hydrological connectivity in the region. 2) An integrated approach to planning the use and occupation of Amazon landscapes (both terrestrial and freshwater – or “aquascapes”) is key to the conservation and sustainable management of these areas. 3) Governments of the Amazon countries need to respect the individual and collective rights of indigenous peoples and other local or traditional communities to their lands, waters and natural resources through granting official recognition of their territories and ensuring access to the natural resources and ecosystems they depend on (both terrestrial and freshwater). 4) In order to make hydropower development in the Amazon Region more sustainable environmentally and socially, and based on its experience in recent years of engaging with hydropower development processes in the Pan-Amazon, WWF has developed proposals for an integrated approach to planning hydropower development in the Amazon. SUGGESTED CITATION Macedo, M. and L. Castello. 2015. State of the Amazon: Freshwater Connectivity and Ecosystem Health; edited by D. Oliveira, C. C. Maretti and S. Charity. Brasília, Brazil: WWF Living Amazon Initiative. 136pp.
    Edited by WWF Living Amazon Initiative (Denise Oliveira, Cláudio C. Maretti and Sandra Charity), 04/2015; WWF Living Amazon Initiative.

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