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.
Ecological Applications – Ecological Society of America
Published: Jun 1, 2007
Keywords: ecological processes ; ecosystem size ; edge effects ; habitat ; land use change ; management ; protected areas ; vulnerability
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