Peer-reviewed Journal Articles

The Moore Center for Science at Conservation International is one of the world’s premier conservation research institutes, producing and applying groundbreaking and policy-relevant research to help decision-makers protect nature. To date, Conservation International has published more than 1,100 peer-reviewed articles, many in leading journals including Science, Nature and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

On average, each of our scientific papers is cited more than 45 times by other scholars — a rate exceeding that of any other U.S. conservation organization as well as leading universities.

Here is an archive of our most recent research.

Protected areas slow declines unevenly across the tetrapod tree of life

A. Justin Nowakowski, James I. Watling, Alexander Murray, Jessica L. Deichmann, Thomas S. Akre, Carlos L. Muñoz Brenes, Brian D. Todd, Louise McRae, Robin Freeman, Luke O. Frishkoff

Nature, 622, 101-106

September 27, 2023

Protected areas (PAs) are the primary strategy for slowing terrestrial biodiversity loss. Although expansion of PA coverage is prioritized under the Convention on Biological Diversity, it remains unknown whether PAs mitigate declines across the tetrapod tree of life and to what extent land cover and climate change modify PA effectiveness1,2. Here we analysed rates of change in abundance of 2,239 terrestrial vertebrate populations across the globe. On average, vertebrate populations declined five times more slowly within PAs (−0.4% per year) than at similar sites lacking protection (−1.8% per year). The mitigating effects of PAs varied both within and across vertebrate classes, with amphibians and birds experiencing the greatest benefits. The benefits of PAs were lower for amphibians in areas with converted land cover and lower for reptiles in areas with rapid climate warming. By contrast, the mitigating impacts of PAs were consistently augmented by effective national governance. This study provides evidence for the effectiveness of PAs as a strategy for slowing tetrapod declines. However, optimizing the growing PA network requires targeted protection of sensitive clades and mitigation of threats beyond PA boundaries. Provided the conditions of targeted protection, adequate governance and well-managed landscapes are met, PAs can serve a critical role in safeguarding tetrapod biodiversity.

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Justin Nowakowski, A., Watling, J. I., Murray, A., Deichmann, J. L., Akre, T. S., Muñoz Brenes, C. L., Todd, B. D., McRae, L., Freeman, R., & Frishkoff, L. O. (2023). Protected areas slow declines unevenly across the tetrapod tree of life. Nature, 622(7981), 101–106.