Several problems with the world's current protected areas mean that the full diversity of the Earth’s habitats and species is not properly protected.
These problems include:
- Poor representation of habitats
Many habitats are not well represented in the current network of protected areas. For example, less than 4% of the ocean is protected. Freshwater habitats are also poorly represented.
- Lack of connectivity between protected areas
Some species, especially large animals like cats and bears, need large areas of natural habitat in order to feed and find mates. Few protected areas are large enough to support more than a few individuals of these species, and many are isolated from other areas of natural habitat. To address this, corridors must be put in place between protected areas to allow species to move from one protected habitat to another. The linking of protected areas to form networks or systems is very important for the survival of many species; however, such connectivity remains rare.
Poaching is a problem in many protected areas around the world. This forest elephant was killed for its tusks in Dzanga-Ndoki National Park, Central African Republic.
- Lack of funds
Putting representative protected area networks in place and managing them effectively requires money. However, few countries, including the richest, have managed to define and establish ways to provide long-term, sustainable financing for individual protected areas, let alone a network. This funding gap is particuilary acute in developing countries and for marine protected areas. There is a clear need to find new and sustainable financial resources to supplement funding for existing protected areas and to support the establishment of new protected areas.
- Poor management
The declaration of a protected area is not an end result: a whole series of conditions must be in place for protected areas to be effective. Effective management is essential to ensure that nature is being conserved within a park's boundaries. Mangement activities include monitoring the health of habitats, ensuring that the rules of the protected area are respected, and working with local people to balance nature protection with their needs and aspirations.
- Human activities
Closely linked with poor management are threats from widespread and either poorly managed or illegal human activites occuring within protected areas in many parts of the world. These include logging, poaching of protected animals, mining, and encroachment by human settlements and agriculture. Human activities outside of protected areas are also often a threat – such as those leading to pollution, climate change, and the introduction of invasive species.
WWF's work on protected areas