A recent study, published in Nature Communications, concludes reassuring that protected areas, ie parks and reserves, actively contribute to the conservation of biological diversity.

This is fortunate since this is the primary purpose of these territories. The interest of this study is that it is based on a very large amount of data collected around the world, allowing to measure the contribution of protected areas in the conservation of nature more objectively.

But if we look more closely, the results are quite modest with 11% of species in addition to parks in comparison with adjacent areas not classified, and overall 14% more individuals of all species.

These are of course global trends which are mainly due to the difference in use of the natural environment between the inside and outside of protected areas, logically favoring biodiversity survival where man comes soon.

The parks in Africa still lags behind

But the situation is more mixed in Africa where several studies conducted in recent years have shown that biodiversity continues to decline, including in protected areas. Particularly in West Africa where large mammal species have seen their numbers plunge by more than 80% in 30 years and even within parks supposed to protect them.

Although the decline is certainly less pronounced than outside the parks, it is nevertheless real. The real question then is not so much whether protected areas are useful, but if properly used.

Many African countries have already reached the goals set by the Convention on Biological Diversity which fixed at 17% of land and 10% sea the minimum area that should be protected.

Maintain or increase the number of African reserves by providing the means to make them successful.

Some countries like Morocco, Namibia, Congo or Tanzania exceed even 30% of their theoretically set aside land for nature conservation. It’s a huge effort made by these countries if we consider that these areas have the potential to “profitability” premium economy with other uses, become prohibited. But why make such an effort if finally the flora and fauna continue to disappear?

Work on the effective management of these parks

The amount (number and area parks) is not sufficient and we need to work on their quality: in this case they are able to fulfill their conservation mission? Too many today protected areas have become useless, and for conservation as they protect over much, and since the development can hinder it. This reinforces misunderstandings and frustrations on both sides of the park boundaries, between those who defend them, but for what purpose, and those who covet them, without success.

It is a highly political issue: keep or increase the number of African reserves by providing the means to make them successful. Get rid of those that have more meaning in focusing, if possible, the resources available to the most promising. Or abandon the conservation of protected areas when it does not. But then, what to replace it?