Rare and declining bird species benefit most from designating protected areas for conservation in the UK.

Change log

There have been recent renewed commitments to increase the extent of protected areas to combat the growing biodiversity crisis but the underpinning evidence for their effectiveness is mixed and causal connections are rarely evaluated. We used data gathered by three large-scale citizen science programmes in the UK to provide the most comprehensive assessment to date of whether national (Sites of Special Scientific Interest) and European (Special Protection Areas/Special Areas of Conservation) designated areas are associated with improved state (occurrence, abundance), change (rates of colonization, persistence and trend in abundance), community structure and, uniquely, demography (productivity) on a national avifauna, while controlling for differences in land cover, elevation and climate. We found positive associations with state that suggest these areas are well targeted and that the greatest benefit accrued to the most conservation-dependent species since positive associations with change were largely restricted to rare and declining species and habitat specialists. We suggest that increased productivity provides a plausible demographic mechanism for positive effects of designation.


Funder: Natural England; doi: https://doi.org/10.13039/501100001293

Funder: Natural Resources Wales (Cyfoeth Naturiol Cymru); doi: https://doi.org/10.13039/100009261

Funder: NatureScot; Joint Nature Conservation Committee; Dept of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Northern Ireland

Animals, Conservation of Natural Resources, Biodiversity, Ecosystem, Birds, United Kingdom
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Nat Ecol Evol
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Springer Science and Business Media LLC