Conserving biodiversity where it exists, or in situ, is the centerpiece of conservation strategies. A broad spectrum of biosphere reserves, parks, wildlife reserves, forest reserves, and indigenous peoples' territories are already in place around the world. Increasingly, protected areas are being managed for sustaining complete and functioning ecosystems in order to maintain a full range of ecological processes and the habitats and species that depend on them. Many scientists and conservation organizations have suggested that protecting a targeted 10 to 12 percent of each nation's land area in this way would effectively conserve a large percentage of the world's species. However, more recent analyses are indicating that the land area necessary to conserve and protect most components of biodiversity may actually be closer to 50 percent (Soule and Sanjayan, 1998). Barely 5 percent of tropical rain forests, the world's most diverse ecosystems, are protected; our opportunities to achieve even the earlier goal of 10 percent are fast vanishing. Twenty-nine out of sixty-three Asian, African, and Latin American countries have already lost more than 80 percent of their natural habits (ibid.). We must rapidly move to protect the remaining tracts of the world's wildlands and stitch them into an interconnected network of biodiversity reserves. Studies have suggested that such a course of action is feasible both scientifically and financially (Pimm et al., 2001), and it is essential to the near- and long-term persistence of all levels of biodiversity.
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