Why Are Nature Reserves Important?


You know what is great about visiting nature preserves? Knowing these places provide for wildlife to live and flourish, an ecological mecca on the planet that remains pristine. Visitors see wildlife rarely encountered and learn how much we depend upon nature. Mostly, we learn.

But is having people involved a problem itself? The two birds opening this post are injured and cannot be set free. They reside at Braddock Bay Bird Observatory. Each sustained injuries from interacting in a world of humans.


The owl below has only one eye, yet is living free in a State Park, raising its young. How its injury occurred is not known. Yes, people do cause wildlife harm and the protected spaces find them sanctuary.


What’s Around the World?

There are about 8,163 protected areas worldwide that cover about 1.5% of this planet. Protected areas run the gamut from strict nature protection with little human visitation to controlled harvesting of wildlife by hunters. The US has roughly 10% in protected spaces. The linked site has site classifications and distribution maps.


Most are park-like and allow recreation for human activities like hiking, birdwatching and camping.


What’s New in Preservation?

A new preserve is going to be the largest nature preserve on Earth, taking proactive measures by saving some of its most valuable ecological assets before it actually becomes a necessity. “New Caledonia, a small island chain in the South Pacific, just set aside the largest protected area on the planet.” (source)


Environmentalists and conservation organizations have been with us for generations, saving many places and creatures. States have set aside lands. Governments and countries get in the game. What if they didn’t?

Imagine the world? If we put a value on the natural world, encouraging governments and the private sector to protect natural resources like what New Caledonia, a French territory just did, the world’s habitats would improve.

Too Much to Save?

On the flip side as populations rise, there are targets on biodiversity, targets on halting climate change, targets to save wildlife species, targets for too much to fund. The sad reality is money makes the world go around, and the targets get tossed for more economically important issues.


Reserves are more than just a snapshot in time, they are always moving.  They can host important habitats for endangered species, both resident and migratory. But…


Save a Place, Then Screw it Up

One has to question reserves because many of them are in wetland or beach locations. Allowing people with pets can and does disturb nesting bird life.


Birds see the pets as a predator, and a rambunctious dog will cause beach-nesting birds to abandon nesting sites. Some areas are fenced off to keep people from nesting sites, but that does not necessarily keep out off-leash pets.


Because wildlife is declining the world over, these places are becoming more and more important to wildlife and people alike. But can they coexist?

Size Matters – Location, Location, Location

For biodiversity to flourish, whole landscapes need to be protected intact for natural processes to occur. Reserves which are measured in square feet are akin to what we have in our own gardens, but they probably are not functioning “naturally” when not part of a larger, continuous chain of like-landscapes. They sometimes become money pits for local administrators like gardens do for homeowners.

Swainson's Warbler

Reserves also preserve soils with native seed species which are not found in fields that have been tilled and soaked with chemicals.  Home gardens along with the homes that sit within, are on disturbed land. Buildings raise pH levels,  shade surroundings, redirect water, and pavement absorbs heat, all things making the environment different from what is “natural or native”.

In lands preserved, we get a sense of how abundant and varied birds, wildflowers and insects can be when places are left as nature intended. Without such places, we grow complacent to what we should be experiencing or what we should protect.

With a changing climate, nature adapts where birds, insects, animals, and plants move. What reserves are finding is that some species are changing in both arrival/bloom times and whether they depart to migrate to more suitable conditions. It is actually comforting to know that extinction is not as likely where life adapts. And our own gardens? Well it is like spinning the roulette wheel from year to year with climate. We adapt less it seems. There really is a lesson in how reserves function in these changing times.


The irony is that to truly protect, that means limiting human access. I would find that a hard pill to swallow myself.


Why It Matters To Me

I enjoy hearing the birds singing at sunrise, watching the bats swoop at sunset, the chipmunks scurrying across the trail, hearing the rain fall and shuttering at thunderstorms – seeing the stars shine on a clear night. I love the kaleidoscope of wildflowers, oddity of insects and swaying trees dropping seed, and hearing the waves crash the shore of the lakes. It is hard to verbalize why these things are so important.


They just are.


It almost looks like the wildlife pleads with us to keep their homes safe.


And knows how often we turn our backs on them.


About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at: http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com
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33 Responses to Why Are Nature Reserves Important?

  1. So true, Donna. By the way that peregrine photo [16 I think], staring at us, is just extraordinary. That look… 🙂

  2. If you ever look at a map that shows population density around the world, it’s amazing to see how relatively wide open the United States is. We have a lot of unpopulated land compared to other parts of the world.

    • I have seen maps showing our open areas, and many of the open areas are around the Mississippi River (swamps and wetlands) and Rocky Mts. into the Northern States. Our country is so diverse in topography.

  3. Great post, Donna. It’s seems such a no-brainer that we need to preserve and protect our natural world. So it’s hard to fathom why there are so many forces out there that don’t see things that way. Who are working to eliminate or water down the environmental protections we do have in place. But we have to keep fighting the good fight. Thanks for the beautiful reminder.

    • That is so true that there are those working to change protected lands. I hope it never comes to where this country sells off some of the reserves due to fiscal constraints. Hunting is allowed on some park lands I believe. Like the big game for instance. Not a hunter myself, but I do know quite a few.

  4. apeerless says:

    Another stunning photo ❤

  5. alesiablogs says:

    This post is packed with emotion and voice for what can’t be protected and who can not speak for itself. I live in a pretty protected area (or so I thought), but I do see more and more areas being taken away due to “big builder.”

  6. My Heartsong says:

    I believe there is a balance somewhere about letting people into preserves to observe so they will learn the importance of preservation, thus allowing the sanctuaries to get financial support. Some national parks have limits to how many people can go into some areas that are heavily protected but in the case of Jasper National Park and Brewster’s Skywalk we sure leave our human footprint and may have tipped the balance. The reason the park allowed it was to educate people about the glaciers and wildlife and said it wouldn’t harm anything since it is in the front country of the park. I fear it is a slippery slope.Even in the city, the administration allow the dogs on leash on the trails in the city parks but inevitably the dogs go off-leash and disturb the birds, the coyotes and even other people.On a larger scale I worry when our governments let the oil business do their thing on the land next to the preserves in the wild. Duh! Great photo of the peregrine falcon.

    • When I was in Costa Rica, only 100 people were allowed in the rainforest for research. No tourists where I was. I love dogs, but these places are not the place for them, leashed or unleashed. I talked with a ranger and he said having a dog even at a great distance was enough to make some birds leave nests. At Niagara, they have Jet boats that run the river and all the birds that nested along the shore are now gone. This is a travesty for the wildlife in the Gorge area.

  7. Great post. You express many of the thoughts that have been going round my own mind. Limiting human access to nature preserves is a difficult but necessary battle. At the same time, I do think that a role for these lands is sensitizing people to the natural world, so you don’t want to go to far in limiting access. Certainly some forms of access are more harmful than others. Restricting dogs makes perfect sense to me, but then I am not a dog owner. Most of all I would love to get rid of ATVs and the like.

    • Many places out west are so large that few people ever get to where the wildlife is living, but places like here in Niagara, people are everywhere. Even though we are a renowned spot for birders (gulls especially) much of the other bird life migrates out of the area due to too much human activity. We have Jet boats running the river now and they made the nesting birds in the Gorge leave. Too much wave activity, too much noise. Sad too.

  8. Here in New Zealand we take our native fauna and flora very seriously and have reserves that have to be fenced off totally. That is because our iconic national symbol – the Kiwi is flightless and so vulnerable to stoats, rats and also the domestic and wild cats. There has been a lot of controversy about the domestic cat with one person wanting a bounty on their heads. We also have islands that are off limits to humans in order to preserve the native wildlife population. I hate zoos but here they are vital for the kiwi to survive. Great and thought provoking post. 😀

    • I would love to see a Kiwi one day. In fact, I would love to see New Zealand. Along with Ireland and Scotland, it would be a place I would love to visit. The beauty would amaze me.

  9. I also agree that preserves are needed for wildlife but I think we need more than we currently have…and we need to limit access or we do nature a disservice….tricky balance but not a priority still in this country…so sad….you have captured some beautiful birds here Donna

  10. Phil Lanoue says:

    I really love the red headed woodpeckers!

  11. Great article, Donna! So true. It’s only rather difficult to decide about the level of human access which is on the one hand still acceptable for the nature (nature preserves) but on the other hand does not destroy it or will influence it in an extremely negative way. Not only the frequency but also the kind of access is important (doing more or less damage) and should one prohibit too much it involves the danger that many people – due to less contact – lose their “feeling” for nature, their interest to think about important measures and at the end their readiness to support or to commit themselves to projects.
    Your blogpost provides ample food for thought.

    Best wishes from Hamburg, Michèle

    • It is true. I would find it sad if I could not visit these places, but I see many on my travels that should be banned from these places. They leave trash like fishing line and hooks, make excessive noise, throw things at shorebirds and the list goes on. When fishing, they toss live fish on the beach to die for no reason or just to watch gulls shred them. Many of these places are so big that there is no one to tell to get the vandals arrested.

  12. Hello said the falcon! Just fabulous, as always Donna.

  13. Great post, Donna, and as usual great photos. You raised some really good questions. I believe human access should be limited for the protection of the wildlife. After all it’s a place for their safety from we humans. Blessings, Natalie 🙂

    • When the parks were developed, they had people in mind. I wonder where the decency went though. Very often kids cause all kinds of trouble and parents do nothing to stop them.

  14. Pat says:

    Beautiful photos.

  15. A.M.B. says:

    These are important questions, and I agree with your sentiments. The photographs are just outstanding (I particularly love the peregrine looking at us!).

  16. Thought-provoking as always, Donna. Tough to come up with answers, but the questions need to be asked. I’ve been reading a lot research lately about the benefits of green spaces and exposure to nature for a magazine story I’m working on. It seems like common sense, but as you say money makes the world go round.

  17. Alisha says:

    great post…thanks for sharing Donna

  18. This topic is very sobering. Thank you for addressing it. Also, your pictures are amazing!

  19. Jet Eliot says:

    Well done essay on a controversial topic, and one of great importance. Terrific photos, too. Thank you Donna.

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