Recent increases in human pressure and forest loss threaten many Natural World Heritage Sites

Allan, James R., Venter, Oscar, Maxwell, Sean, Bertzky, Bastian, Jones, Kendall, Shi, Yichuan and Watson, James E. M. (2017) Recent increases in human pressure and forest loss threaten many Natural World Heritage Sites. Biological Conservation, 206 47-55. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2016.12.011


Author Allan, James R.
Venter, Oscar
Maxwell, Sean
Bertzky, Bastian
Jones, Kendall
Shi, Yichuan
Watson, James E. M.
Title Recent increases in human pressure and forest loss threaten many Natural World Heritage Sites
Journal name Biological Conservation   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0006-3207
1873-2917
Publication date 2017-02-01
Year available 2016
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1016/j.biocon.2016.12.011
Open Access Status Not yet assessed
Volume 206
Start page 47
End page 55
Total pages 9
Place of publication Kidlington, Oxford, United Kingdom
Publisher Pergamon Press
Language eng
Subject 1105 Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
2309 Nature and Landscape Conservation
Abstract Natural World Heritage Sites (NWHS), via their formal designation through the United Nations, are globally recognized as containing some of the Earth's most valuable natural assets. Understanding changes in their ecological condition is essential for their ongoing preservation. Here we use two newly available globally consistent data sets that assess changes in human pressure (Human Footprint) and forest loss (Global Forest Watch) over time across the global network of terrestrial NWHS. We show that human pressure has increased in 63% of NWHS since 1993 and across all continents except Europe. The largest increases in pressure occurred in Asian NWHS, many of which were substantially damaged such as Manas Wildlife Sanctuary. Forest loss occurred in 91% of NWHS that contain forests, with a global mean loss of 1.5% per site since 2000, with the largest areas of forest lost occurring in the Americas. For example Wood Buffalo National Park and Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve lost 2581 km(2) (11.7%) and 365 km2 (8.5%) of their forest respectively. We found that on average human pressure increased faster and more forest loss occurred in areas surrounding NWHS, suggesting they are becoming increasingly isolated and are under threat from processes occurring outside their borders. While some NWHS such as the Sinharaja Forest Reserve and Mana Pools National Park showed minimal change in forest loss or human pressure, they are in the minority and our results also suggest many NWHS are rapidly deteriorating and are more threatened than previously thought. (C) 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Formatted abstract
Natural World Heritage Sites (NWHS), via their formal designation through the United Nations, are globally recognized as containing some of the Earth's most valuable natural assets. Understanding changes in their ecological condition is essential for their ongoing preservation. Here we use two newly available globally consistent data sets that assess changes in human pressure (Human Footprint) and forest loss (Global Forest Watch) over time across the global network of terrestrial NWHS. We show that human pressure has increased in 63% of NWHS since 1993 and across all continents except Europe. The largest increases in pressure occurred in Asian NWHS, many of which were substantially damaged such as Manas Wildlife Sanctuary. Forest loss occurred in 91% of NWHS that contain forests, with a global mean loss of 1.5% per site since 2000, with the largest areas of forest lost occurring in the Americas. For example Wood Buffalo National Park and Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve lost 2581 km2 (11.7%) and 365 km2 (8.5%) of their forest respectively. We found that on average human pressure increased faster and more forest loss occurred in areas surrounding NWHS, suggesting they are becoming increasingly isolated and are under threat from processes occurring outside their borders. While some NWHS such as the Sinharaja Forest Reserve and Mana Pools National Park showed minimal change in forest loss or human pressure, they are in the minority and our results also suggest many NWHS are rapidly deteriorating and are more threatened than previously thought.
Keyword Biodiversity conservation
Cumulative threat mapping
Forest loss
Habitat fragmentation
Habitat loss
Human Footprint
Monitoring
World Heritage
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
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