A national park is a place, an area set aside by the government for conserving plants and animals in an organized way. They are also meant for public recreation, primarily due to their paramount scientific and historical significance. In national parks, all landscapes, flora, and fauna are kept in their natural state.
The concept of national parks came into being in 1916, in the US following the National Park service. In addition to the parks, the system included monuments, system reserves, seashores, recreational areas, historic parks, sites, highways, scenic trails, and also battlefields. In a word, the specially allocated area usually has a host of natural reserves that also serve as great ecological importance.
There are huge reserves of natural forests in Africa, in countries like South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda where the government has strategically planned and maintained, keeping in mind the ecological balance, conservation, food chain system, the ecological pyramid and not to mention the recreation opportunities which attract tourists from around the globe.
There are a total of 3044 national parks worldwide. Out of which, Africa contains 249, Asia has 985, 474 are in Europe, 297 in Central and North America, 335 in South America while Oceania has 704, among others.
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Why are National Parks Important?
The concept of having national parks is one of the best-known solutions in terms of conservation, and retaining the ecological balance of the globe. They have great significance in various aspects. Let us check out some of them below:
The world is fast losing its natural assets. According to a study by the National Autonomous University (UNAM) in 2015, the total amount of species that became extinct since the last 30 years is 477, and that’s by any standard is alarming. Their habitats are getting destructed worldwide due to constant urbanization, deforestation, and human activities. Now, national parks are a solution to this problem.
There are trees, highlands built in a natural way that shelters birds, animals, predators, and preys. The vigilant forest rangers caretaking these national parks keep a close watch on the poachers, facilitating the peaceful reproduction and multiplication of animals that are on the verge of being extinct. It is how they are helping to maintain the ecological pyramid along with a perfect food chain, which treasures the keystone species in the required proportion.
Well-preserved national parks serve as a good means for income generation for the country as it hugely attracts tourism. These wildlife-rich parks not only attract the hospitality industry and the hotels but also stay-inns inside the park that fetch good revenue to the government.
For example, the national parks of Australia fetch $23 billion every year, and those from the US help make $32 billion per year. Kenya generates almost KSH 84.6 billion from tourism out of its national parks. India, on the other hand, earns INR1.49 crores from wildlife tourism. These national parks are not just well-provided state-of-the-art amenities but also highly dedicated staff members whose primary responsibility is taking care of and maintaining all the natural assets in the best possible way.
Health and Wellbeing
The multifaceted positive effects of being in touch with nature and natural surroundings are the top-notch contemporary research studies for environmental scientists. It has been found that ailments like respiratory problems, blood pressure, stress, frustration, eye problem, anger, frustration can get cured if you spend some quality time in the national park’s lush green surroundings. Moreover, people also have chosen these national parks to be a site for social bonding and a place that enhances the learning stimulation of children.
Nowadays, schools emphasize a lot on encouraging children taking optional subjects like wildlife, which also improves their knowledge of the animals as well as their habitat. That way, it also helps students to understand the importance of ecological balance and a clean environment in the face of the present climate crisis. National parks play a great role in boosting the greenery and help to cut the deadly carbon emissions generated from automobiles across cities worldwide.
Social and Cultural Values
The national parks are alive with rich history and culture, reverberating every corner of the world. The national parks serve the role of natural history book that dates back to centuries. History as old as 22,000 years also can be traced from the national parks. The protected areas of Australia are used by the Aboriginal people in a number of ways, like being the source of food, medicine, trade, and also in ceremonial procedures.
National parks provide an opportunity where people can connect with the culture and also share the irreplaceable cultural knowledge. The Olduvai Gorge located nearby Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, bears fossil remains of humans, animals, and plants of the Palaeolithic Age.
How Do National Parks Help the Environment?
National parks are the places that are free from human interference apart from tourism and veterinarian reasons. The national parks have a great significance in maintaining the ecological balance and biodiversity of the environment. Let us now find out how national parks are advantageous for the environment.
The national parks serve a significant role in conserving the near to extinct species of the world. The staff authorities dedicate their whole time keeping a vigil eye over the poachers and also the health conditions of the animals by coordinating with the veterinarians.
Tigers were almost a near to extinct species in India, but due to all-round efforts, you’ll find them in Bandhavgarh, Bandipur, Sundarbans, and Ranthambore. Similarly, Cuban Solenodon was thought to be extinct, but now you can spot them at Alejandro de Humboldt National Park, Cuba.
Sources of Energy
The national parks are sources of energy and help in producing clean and renewable energy, reducing and combatting carbon emissions. The dedicated staff members of the national park also protect and preserve water. The Children’s Eternal Rainforest Reserve in Costa Rica is one such example that provides water for the hydroelectric power company.
Since the national parks play a significant role in biodiversity and ecosystem, environment scientists find it as an appropriate place to continue their research activities. There are many types of research going on around the world relating to the ecological effects of the storm. Since the national parks have a wide range of flora and fauna, they are also the most desirable place for any ecology-related studies.
Maintaining Healthy Ecosystems
National parks are significant in the real sense that they help to maintain a healthy ecosystem. The amount of greenery is always on the rise in national parks, so they are effective in a number of ways, including absorbing carbon dioxide from automobiles and controlling oxygen emission.
In fact, the roots of trees help to hold the soil best and prevent erosion. Since the forest is home to various arboreal species, their burrowing habit is beneficial for soil aeration that helps to maintain a good soil texture. Besides, the falling of leaves from trees and the decaying animal body make the soil fertile and mineral-rich. Sometimes, the trees preserved in a national park can be the sources of rare medicines.
Disadvantages of National Parks
Despite being the true patriot of conservation and ecology, national parks possess some disadvantages.
1. They cover a huge area, but residence complexes nearby would always pose a threat of wild animals encroaching if there is want of food. Therefore, border security needs to be conscious and tightened on a continuous basis. Such incidents are very common, especially in Nairobi, where the residents living nearby the national park complain about lions encroaching residential area.
2. Often you will see that governments realize that the money spent on maintaining the national parks is way too much in comparison to the revenue generation. When lean season occurs in wildlife tourism, the cost of maintaining these parks often surpasses the income generated from them.
3. National parks having meandering roads often lead to traffic congestion. Car parking facilities are scarce and sometimes take a huge deficit.
4. Footpath erosion becomes a major problem in major national parks like Lake District in South Wales.
5. The national parks in the US encourage second homes for citizens around the area. These are the homes where actual owners are missing. They are more or less like tourists, and while they stay within or beside the national park premises, often their activities disturb the peace of the animals.