ST. LOUIS, Mo. – February 6, 2024 – Conservation areas have helped preserve Tanzania’s highly threatened flora and fauna, but more work needs to be done to protect species before they disappear, a recent paper found.
Tanzania is home to unique plant and animal species that occur nowhere else on Earth, at least half of which are threatened with extinction. Since 1997, efforts to protect these species have increased through the creation of a network of Nature Forest Reserves (or NFRs), which are areas with high levels of biodiversity that are given the country’s highest level of legal protection.
The paper, “Nature Forest Reserves in Tanzania and their Importance for Conservation,” published in PLOS ONE on Feb. 5, examines the effectiveness of NFRs in conserving endemic and rare species and what techniques could improve NFRs in the future.
“The NFR network was designed to include well-managed forest areas of exceptional importance for globally unique biodiversity, then expanded to cover all the different forest types in the country,” explained co-author Roy Gereau of the Missouri Botanical Garden. “This study has aimed to provide a careful inventory of the species composition of each of these sites as a baseline for measuring their conservation effectiveness.”
Scientists analyzed data, including plant data from the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Herbarium and Tropicos® database, for the project. They found that effectiveness of NFR conservation management had increased over time, reducing threats for some species.
However, challenges remain. This includes some Tanzanian endemic species that aren’t found in the NFR network. Additionally, protected spaces still face threats like illegal logging and hunting, wildfires, charcoal production and wildlife trade that need to be better controlled.
Improving the network plays a critical role in the Garden’s current plans for conservation of threatened Tanzanian tree species, Gereau explained.
The scientists recommend expanding the current network to protect more endemic species and adopting future management plans that emphasize the enforcement of hunting and logging regulations at all sites. They also stress the importance of raising awareness of conservation issues in local villages and providing local people with viable alternatives to hunting or logging activities that are negatively impacting the forests.
“The buy-in and participation of local communities is absolutely essential to the success of environmental conservation,” Gereau said. “These are the people with the most to gain by effective management of natural resources and the equitable distribution of its benefits, and the most to lose if this management fails.”
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The Missouri Botanical Garden’s mission is “to discover and share knowledge about plants and their environment in order to preserve and enrich life.” Today, 165 years after opening, the Missouri Botanical Garden is a National Historic Landmark and a center for science, conservation, education and horticultural display.
About PLOS ONE: The world’s first multidisciplinary Open Access journal, PLOS ONE accepts scientifically rigorous research, regardless of novelty. PLOS ONE’s broad scope provides a platform to publish primary research including interdisciplinary and replication studies as well as negative results. The journal’s publication criteria are based on high ethical standards and the rigor of the methodology and conclusions reported.