Abstract: Conservation biologists have developed powerful tools for reserve selection and design over the past two decades, yet seldom are protected areas actually designed on scientific grounds. Using fundamental biological and socioeconomic principles of conservation science, we designed a new protected area and its multiple‐use zone on the Masoala Peninsula in the humid forest zone of Madagascar. The explicit design criteria determined the data gathered for the work, which included (1) spatial distribution and quality of habitat, (2) the areas and species at greatest risk, (3) the relationship between environmental gradients and species distributions, (4) current and predicted human settlement and land and resource use, and (5) the economic potential of natural forest management as an alternative to deforestation. We used a geographic information system to integrate these data layers and applied the design criteria to develop a park proposal that balanced human and wildlife needs. The proposal won the approval of local residents, and a national decree in 1997 designated 2100 km2 of rainforest and three satellite marine reserves as the Masoala National Park, with a surrounding multiple‐use zone of approximately 1000 km2. The new park is Madagascar's largest protected area and protects more lowland (<400 m) humid forest habitat than the entire reserve system combined, a significant step forward in conserving a globally important ecoregion. Consideration of local needs and the national economy was a key element in gaining approval for the Masoala Park. Such an approach toward reserve design could be applied elsewhere to improve chances of establishing and maintaining protected areas over the long term.
Conservation Biology – Wiley
Published: Oct 23, 1999
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