By Alyssa Casey
The first-ever Protected Planet Report was recently released by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Center (UNEP-WCMC). The report addresses the need to conserve areas of the natural environment by protecting local resources and native species. This will help preserve global biodiversity, the variety of living organisms that exist on the planet. The report tracks progress on Target 11 of the Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CBD) Aichi Biodiversity Targets. According to Target 11, by 2020, 17 percent of terrestrial ecoregions and 10 percent of marine ecoregions will be properly conserved.
The Cape Floristic Region of South Africa, one of many protected areas conserved by the IUCN, harbors one fifth of Africa’s known plant species (Photo credit: Western Cape Nature Conservation Board, IUCN)
As the global population and their use of natural resources steadily increases, the Aichi Targets hope to protect global biodiversity from historic and emerging threats, such as pollution and over-harvesting of natural resources. Protected areas are internationally recognized regions set aside for nature and biodiversity conservation. Protected areas are crucial for reasons beyond preserving biodiversity; they also aid scientific research, maintain water supplies, and preserve sites of cultural importance. By limiting human occupation and preventing exploitation of natural resources, the UNEP-WCMC conserves protected areas around the world. According to the report, protected areas currently cover 12.7 percent of the world’s land area and 1.6 percent of the global ocean area. Meanwhile, half of the world’s most important sites for biodiversity still remain unprotected.
Protected areas are traditionally managed exclusively by governments. However, the report shows the amount of exclusively government-managed protected areas decreasing from 96 percent to 77 percent. This is because of a rise in Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas (ICCAs) across the world. In ICCAs, the local communities take action to conserve protected areas in their regions. In the Mexican state of Yucatan, the Yucatan Maya people preserve the San Crisanto area so large farm owners cannot convert the natural habitat into farmland. After two hurricanes in 1996 caused severe erosion and flooding in the region, the local community worked to restore the canals and waterways of San Crisanto. In the Central Philippines, the local people help protect the Apo Island marine environment by limiting fishermen’s harvesting of native fish species. They also work to conserve the coral reef habitat, which contains many breeding sites for local fish species.
With local communities playing an increasing role in conserving protected areas, governing organizations are developing new ways to document ICCAs. One major challenge of ICCAs is that they commonly go unreported or unrecognized, and therefore can lack funding or additional government support against outside impact. To combat these issues, and ensure ICCAs are documented with protected areas, the UNEP-WCMC helped create an ICCA registry. This site will allow all ICCAs worldwide to be tracked alongside government-managed protected areas, enabling a more accurate understanding of protected areas worldwide. This documentation will play an important role in the next Protected Planet Report, which is scheduled to be published in 2014.
What do you think are the most effective ways to conserve protected areas? Do you think community involvement is important to preserve these areas? Share your ideas in the comments below!
Alyssa Casey is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.
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