EAST LANSING, Mich. As the world's biodiversity hotspots are increasingly stressed by their human neighbors, zoning is becoming a common strategy to balance environmental protection and human needs. But a recent study shows zoning for conservation demands reality checks.
"Zoning ordinances are rarely evaluated for their ability to make positive changes using empirical data on both human and biodiversity characteristics." says Jianguo (Jack) Liu, an internationally recognized expert at Michigan State University in a study of coupled human and natural systems. "It's critical to examine both human and natural systems to see if ordinances are working and understand what changes might be needed."
A unique case study that does of one of the world's renowned nature reserves in southwestern China shows that zoning is helping protect endangered giant pandas. The analysis from Michigan State University's Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability (CSIS) also reveals critical weaknesses.
According to the paper, zoning ordinances can be useful to balance human activities and wildlife habitat as long as a few limitations are remembered: Lines on a map don't show up in a forest, laws mean little without enforcement and animals can't read zoning ordinances.
"Zoning everywhere, in China and in the United States, is about drawing lines on a piece of paper. But the big challenge is always how do you bring those lines to life?" said Vanessa Hull, the lead author of a paper published in the Oct. 28 online edition of Biological Conservation. "The people who live in that landscape can't see it and there are no fences. We're showing that zoning is an effective tool for controlling some human impacts but not others."
Hull is a fisheries and wildlife doctoral candidate in CSIS who has spent years periodically living in the Wolong Nature Reserve to understand the delicate balance between pandas and the people who live amongst
|Contact: Sue Nichols|
Michigan State University