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Increasing development in the surroundings of U.S. National Park Service holdings jeopardizes park effectiveness

Gimmi, Urs, Schmidt, Shelley L., Hawbaker, Todd J., Alcántara, Camilo, Gafvert, Ulf, Radeloff, Volker C.
Journal of environmental management 2011 v.92 no.1 pp. 229-239
planning, parks, dunes, growth and development, humans, islands, landscapes, roads, rocks, aerial photography, ecosystems, U.S. National Park Service, buildings, biodiversity, conservation areas, Indiana, Great Lakes region
Protected areas are cornerstones of biodiversity conservation, but they are in danger of becoming islands in a sea of human dominated landscapes. Our question was if protected areas may even foster development in their surroundings because they provide amenities that attract development, thus causing the isolation of the ecosystems they were designed to protect. Our study analyzed historic aerial photographs and topographical maps to reconstruct road development and building growth within and around Indiana Dunes and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshores in the U.S. Great Lakes region from 1938 to 2005, and to estimate the effects of park creation in 1966 on changes in landscape patterns. Historic U.S. census housing density data were used as a baseline to compare observed changes to. Our results showed that park establishment was effective in reducing and stopping the fragmenting impact of development within park boundaries. However, increased amenity levels following park establishment led to enhanced development in the surroundings of both parks. In the extreme case of Indiana Dunes, building density outside the park increased from 45 to 200buildings/km² and road density almost doubled from 3.6 to 6.6km/km² from 1938 to 2005. Development rates of change were much higher than in the broader landscape, particularly after park establishment. The potential amenity effect was up to 9500 new buildings in the 3.2-km zone around Indiana Dunes between 1966 and 2005. For Pictured Rocks the absolute effect was smaller but up to 70% of the observed building growth was potentially due to amenity effects. Our findings highlight the need for conservation planning at broader scales, incorporating areas beyond the boundaries of protected areas.