Supersizing world's nature havens would add people to valued species list

A group of scientists is recommending giving the world's nature reserves a makeover to defend not only flora and fauna, but people, too.

January 30, 2017 - Author: Sue Nichols

A park in China

A group of scientists is recommending giving the world’s nature reserves a makeover to defend not only flora and fauna, but people, too.

Scientists in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences argue that the world’s protected areas such as nature reserves, traditionally havens for endangered animals and plants, can be made better if they ratchet up benefits that directly benefit people. The world’s nature reserves not only defend nature for nature’s sake, but also can curb erosion, prevent sandstorms, retain water and prevent flooding and sequester carbon. The authors include more of a place for people – judiciously.

“Decades of interdisciplinary research teaches us that the best, most-durable protections we can give nature are ones that also directly benefit people,” said Michigan State University’s Jianguo “Jack” Liu, a sustainability scholar long known for science of coupled human and natural systems. “This new look at China’s expansive nature reserves is an exciting way to understand how protected areas all over the world can be improved for both people and nature.”

Liu joins Weihua Xu of the State Key Laboratory of Urban and Regional Ecology in the Chinese Academy of Sciences, as well as scientists from several other institutions in China as well as Stanford University and University of Minnesota, to evaluate what and how China’s expansive protected areas are protecting, and envision a kind of new national park system that nurtures both man and beast.

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