However, a new study that collected nearly a million records of more than 1,230 invertebrate species between 1990 and 2018 suggests that these protected areas are just as vulnerable to the country’s overall decline in biodiversity.
The authors found that protected areas were more species-rich than unprotected areas of the country, but both areas experienced similar declines in native insects and spiders over the past 30 years.
According to the findings, pollinators such as bees and flies have declined particularly strongly.
The results suggest that while protected areas help preserve valuable habitats and the species they contain, they need more help to combat the broader threats posed by climate change, pollution and invasive species to biodiversity across the country.
“We see similar trends for invertebrates in both protected and unprotected areas,” said Dr Rob Cooke, an ecological modeler at UKCEH and lead author of the study. “That’s worrying because you’d expect species to show more positive trends in protected areas.”
The declines observed in the study correspond to the loss of more than three species in protected areas and less than two species per decade in unprotected areas.
The study, published in the journal Biological Conservation, used data from several different invertebrate recording systems across the UK, which included observations of ants, bees, hoverflies, ladybugs, spiders and wasps. Dr Cooke together with UKCEH colleagues Drs Francesca ManciniDr Robin BoydDr Nick Isaac and the University of Sheffield researchers then examined changes in biodiversity throughout the study period.
They found that protected areas had almost double the number of rare species compared to non-protected parts of the UK. Trends in these rare species also remained stable in both protected and non-protected areas, suggesting that they benefited from conservation efforts. But the authors found a sharp decline in common species, especially in protected areas.
Dr Cooke said: “Protected areas have often been designated to help rare species. But more common species seem to be falling through the cracks. It should serve as a warning because today’s common species may be tomorrow’s rare species.”
The researchers conclude that a large number of protected areas around Britain could play a greater role in the future. Protected areas have supported some notable conservation success stories, such as the bittern, the ladybird spider and the chalk butterfly. But the authors suggest that more can be done to ensure that protected areas benefit the country’s biodiversity as a whole. Evidence-based policies, targets and management, they say, focus more on effectiveness than just covering protected areas.
Dr Cooke added: “I think the positive thing we can take from this is that we have a clear opportunity to make protected areas better for biodiversity.”
Source: The Nordic Page