Academic journal article The Science Teacher

National Park Homes

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

National Park Homes

Article excerpt

The growth of housing near national parks, national forests, and wilderness areas within the United States may limit the conservation value that these protected areas were designed to create in the first place, a new study has found. The researchers determined that housing development reduces the potential of these protected areas to serve as a modern-day "Noah's Ark," interrupting potential travel corridors for some animals, and altering habitat for others.

Results of the study are being published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). "These protected areas have become an amenity that actually attracts housing development," says Roger Hammer, an Oregon State University (OSU) sociologist and coauthor of the PNAS study. "Housing is a convenient gauge because it is something that is easily measured and can be traced back to the 1940s. In essence, it serves as a proxy for human development impacts that include everything from roads to strip malls."

In their study, the research team looked at how the growth of housing adjacent to protected areas has created a patchwork quilt of land use that essentially has shrunk the impact of the conservation areas. The researchers did not look at potential impacts on individual species, but rather focused their study on how the housing growth has changed the landscape.

Between 1940 and 2000, 28 million housing units were built within 50 km of protected areas in the United States. During the last three decades, the rate of housing growth near these areas has accelerated at the rate of about 20% a decade. In fact, since the 1990s, the growth of housing within a single kilometer of protected areas has far outpaced the national average of new housing units, according to Hammer, a demographer in OSU's College of Liberal Arts. …

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