Sunday 28 June 2020

Are protected areas effective at maintaining large carnivore populations?

JUNE 22, 2020

A recent study, led by the University of Helsinki, used a novel combination of statistical methods and an exceptional data set collected by hunters to assess the role of protected areas for carnivore conservation in Finland.

Overall, protected areas do not harbor higher densities of large carnivore species than unprotected lands. These areas even had declining wolverine densities within their limits while populations outside remained overall stable over a 30-year study period. The study was published in the journal Nature Communications.

The international group of authors, led by Dr. Julien Terraube from the Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences at the University of Helsinki, proposes that the results do not indicate that protected areas are unimportant for carnivore conservation, as they may support seasonal habitats and prey for these highly mobile species. However, the outcomes highlight complex socio-ecological pressures on carnivore populations that vary in both time and space and affect the conservation outcomes of protected areas. For example, the largest Finnish protected areas are located in Lapland, and due to their sizes these areas are most suitable for large carnivores. However, the areas seem unable to maintain stable wolverine populations, which may be linked to increased conflicts with herders in the reindeer husbandry area.

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