New study finds that living near protected lands can have a positive impact on health

Apr 8 2019, 8:57 pm

study by researchers at the University of Oregon has revealed new results indicating that living near protected lands can have a positive impact on human wellbeing.

Protected areas are geographic spaces such as national parks, nature reserves or wilderness areas that are managed with the goal of long-term conservation. They are one of the main tools used to conserve biodiversity around the world.

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Residents that live near a protected area are able to reap benefits such as long-term conservation of its natural resources.

The researchers compiled one of the largest and most comprehensive socioeconomic and environmental data sets to analyze impacts of protected areas on human well-being around the world. The data included environmental and socioeconomic data from about 87,000 children in 60,000 households either near – within 10 km — or far from 600 protected areas in 34 developing countries around the world.

The study’s findings include:

  • Households situated near protected areas associated with tourism had higher levels of wealth, by 17%, and lower levels of poverty by 16%, compared to similar households living far from the protected areas.
  • Children under age five living near multiple-use protected areas had higher height-for-age scores, by 10%, and were less likely to have stunted growth, by 13%, than similar children living far from the protected areas.

Some protected areas are essentially off-limits to local people while others are multiple-use protected areas that permit limited harvests of natural resources. The study showed that those residents who stood to benefit most from their proximity to a protected area were those who lived near the multiple-use areas, according to Drew Gerkey, an environmental anthropologist at Oregon State University.

“The multiple-use areas are where you see a lot of the positive impacts for people’s health and wealth,” says Gerkey. “The boundaries are relaxed in a way that allows local people to access resources but doesn’t impinge on the larger goal of conservation.”

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