About detrimental impact of wildlife reserves

Hello there,

I just heard how a wildlife reserve could be potentially detrimental to wildlife. Perhaps this was naive of me, but I never thought this could be the case. The idea is that when a reserve is created, the flora and fauna inside are protected, but people/states might feel like if the wildlife is protected in that reserve, we can do anything else to the flora and fauna outside the reserves. Leading to deforestation and any sort of highly impacting human activities on the environment. I think this is an example of a rebound effect (e.g. I’m buying an electrical car, so it’s ok if I drive more often…)

My guess is that it makes sense to promote global environmental policies rather than protect small patches of land. Obviously, I know reserves are important to protect some endangered species, but is it really beneficial to support wildlife reserves when thinking of global environmental impact? What’s the point of having small protected areas if everything around them is destroyed?

I’d love to hear your thoughts here. Any data or scientific papers to back up your opinions would be highly appreciated too.



Call me a cynic, but I don’t think there is anything that will stop the short-sighted and greedy from destroying the planet for profit. Better do as much as possible all at once, reserves and laws and social change and etc. Better to lose 99% than 100% of wildlands…


I think it depends on the context. You definitely need bigger picture changes at a national and global level - but I feel like if you removed the “wildlife reserve” status of those patches of land, we wouldn’t suddenly start making more of an effort to bring about bigger changes. And in the meantime some of those habitats would be destroyed


Point of having at least them saved to some extent, idally to get money from visitors if we talk about USA National parks system, it’s far from working that way everywhere, but in places where people’s greed is focused on other subjects reserves do work and save wildlife. What’s the alternative? To let people get rid of every patch of nature that is left so far?
Protected areas are also not that small, look at Great Arctic State Nature Reserve which is an area of 4 mil 200 thousand ha. And best working reserves wark as a net that allows animals migrate and stay safe, also resulting in higher genetic diversity.


When establising reserves, It seems we don’t always pay enough attention to migration matters and connecting wildlife corridors between preserves. Isolated islands of wild lands could impact genetic diversity by limiting access to the greater gene pool for the protected species within the reserves. But, as @trh_blue mentions above, .anything is better than nothing.


I have to agree with @trh_blue, any habitat that is not legally protected will be destroyed sooner or later. For every person who wants to protect a field or forest, there are 100 people who want to use it as a farm, parking lot, real estate development, interstate, strip mine, or toxic waste dump. And even the places that are legally protected typically get destroyed anyway, e.g. the Amazon.


P.S. If you want to see data about wildlife reserves having some positive effect, take a look at any satellite image of the border between Guatemala and Belize. 38% of Belize is protected land compared to 20% for Guatemala. You can clearly see the difference from space.


I don’t think the people who think they can do anything they want to flora and fauna even care whether or not there is a reserve; if anything, a lot of them already want to develop the reserves too. See, for example, trying to push through allowing private fracking and strip mining in national forest lands, building pipelines, logging (beyond managing fire loads), etc…


That feels like a deceptive argument to justify trashing the wildlife reserve in favour of whatever makes a few wealthy people even wealthier. Without reserves, instead of a little wildlife, we would have none.


There are plenty of other benefits to wildlife reserves besides just offering a safe haven for wildlife, especially with an engaged community. The services they provide to the community can also be leveraged into increasing awareness of issues and education of the public on proper land and wildlife management principles. The cognitive dissonance associated with eco-balancing heuristics are a complicated factor, but without local education and increasing awareness of the issues associated with wildlife and habitat loss, global initiatives will be especially difficult to achieve.

Here’s a great journal article that discusses some of this more: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00348/full


Thanks for the article @dschlangen, I think you’re spot on, education might be the most important factor here.

I pretty much agree with everything you guys said. It’s hard not to get too cynical about this. But I feel that whatever is done is too little too late… And as there is so much green-washing these days, it’s sometimes hard to discriminate the good from the bad. For example, I’m ashamed when in France we say we’re doing good because we have more forests than X years ago, but we’re actually making crops of a single species of tree for wood production.

I’m really not optimistic about the future.


Worst comes to worst, we can make reserves into little museums of what Earth was like before it became the ruined, drowned, roasting-hot wasteland. ):

Without hope, the struggle becomes meaningless. It may be that all of our efforts will keep Earth human-habitable, stable, and biodiverse for millenia to come. It may be that all we can do is preserve a few scraps of nature before it is all lost. Or we could have doomed ourselves to early and sudden extinction along with the large majority of current life. There’s no way to really know. You just have to try and then cross your fingers.
One way or another, Earth will continue on its orbit, and life here will continue for a long, long time.


We do what we can because we must

Even if we can only save a little bit a little longer. We must.


I believe it is possible for for nature preserves to cause humans to behave even more recklessly, but I don’t think it is a major factor to be considered. I remain moderately optimistic. There is a lot of work that shows wild life can, and does, exist within human spaces. Humans should design our spaces with wild life in mind. However, I do swing between moderately optimistic and blackly pessimistic. Somehow I see a future (if we are alive to see it), where the life forms we dislike, who feed on our garbage, will inherit the earth.


Anyone else here remember the 1972 film, Silent Running?

In the future, all plant life on Earth is becoming extinct. As many specimens as possible have been preserved in a series of enormous, greenhouse-like, geodesic domes attached to large spaceships, one of which is named Valley Forge, forming part of a fleet of space freighters, currently just outside the orbit of Saturn.

I think about that movie a lot when I run across these tiny little acreages fought for and preserved in the midst of large-scale destruction of land. Around me, Kasota Prairie.


In addition to the benefit to wildlife, nature preserves contribute directly to human wellbeing by contributing cleaner air and water and filtering pollutants from the environment. Trees generate oxygen, filter pollutants, cycle carbon. I think It would be helpful if this awareness was more widespread. I like the way this study from Taipei put it (though there are numerous other agencies saying similar):

Green space, for the purposes of this paper, is open space covered by plants [5,6]. Green spaces are semi-natural areas [7] that not only have the environmental function of blocking noise [8], reducing carbon emissions and air pollution [9–12], conserving water and soil [13,14], adjusting the microclimate and moderating temperatures [12,15–19], but also have the ecological functions of recovering fertility, preserving ecologically sensitive areas, providing the habitat and feeding spaces for various species [20,21], and stabilizing ecological systems [22]. Moreover, green space has the landscape functions of buffering interferential land use while enhancing environmental beauty and visual aesthetics. It also has the socio-cultural functions of strengthening social cohesion and place identity by providing environmental education, recreation and cultural exchange [23–25]. Additionally, green space provides the health benefits of reducing tension and improving people’s sense of satisfaction and happiness [26–28]. Thus, not only is green space the key to solving problems associated with climate change and over-urbanization, but it also plays a significant role in creating a sustainable urban environment that provides social and ecological balance. https://mdpi-res.com/d_attachment/sustainability/sustainability-06-08827/article_deploy/sustainability-06-08827.pdf

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I recently wrote a section in my field journal analyzing open space in my town, by neighborhoods (as defined by nextdoor.com). To my surprise, one of the longest green corridors I found is the powerline that traverses my own neighborhood. Since nobody would build under a powerline, that space is instead a chain of parks and bike paths, and the community garden.


Funny you should mention a film. The movie that left a lasting impact on me was Soylent Green (1973), and in particular the close-up of the celery and tomato.


Here too, there can be little surviving pockets of particular vegetation types in the fenced off corridor below pylons.

Never saw the film, but I did read the book.
The closing page stays with me.

Little child points to a blade of grass growing in the concrete jungle.
Mama looks scared and whispers - shh dear, do NOT mention it!

Soylent Green burger on a carbohydrates from plastic hydrocarbons bun?