Protected areas and regional avian species richness in South Africa

19 April 2007

Protected areas are generally regarded as essential for the long-term maintenance of biodiversity. Evidence for their effectiveness in this regard is, however, somewhat equivocal. Here, we document the relationship between the proportion of protected land and species richness in a region, both with and without taking spatial variation in environmental energy availability into account. Using the South African avifauna as a case study, we find that total and threatened species richness exhibit modest increases with the proportion of protected land. While the protected area network should be expanded, it is essential that conservation efforts also focus on maintaining biodiversity in the wider unprotected landscape that supports high species richness.