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Study Finds Protected Areas Vulnerable to Food Security Concerns

Protected areas are critical to mitigating extinction of species; however, they may also be in conflict with efforts to feed the growing human population.

Paul Armsworth, professor of ecology and researcher with the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS) is the co-author of a new study showing croplands are prevalent in protected areas, which challenges their efficacy meeting conversation goals. Varsha Vijay, a researcher at the University of Maryland’s National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) is the lead author.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that 6% of all global terrestrial protected areas are already made up of cropland, a heavily modified habitat that is often not suitable for supporting wildlife. Worse, 22% of this cropland occurs in areas supposedly enjoying the strictest levels of protection, the keystone of global biodiversity protection efforts.

In order to comprehensively examine global cropland impacts in protected areas for the first time, the authors synthesized a number of remotely sensed cropland estimates and diverse socio-environmental datasets.

Read more about the study at