CHow to Expand Protected Areas by 2020
A2020 target for the expansion of protected areas on land and sea could be met if in to the conservation of biodiversity and ecosystems is prioritised, says a new report by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP).
Currently, 15.4 per cent of terrestrial areas and 3.4 per cent of oceans globally are marked as protected areas, according to the Protected Planet Report 2014, which was jointly produced by UNEP’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre ( WCMC) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
“We now need to build sup- port and funding to ensure protected areas are effectively and equitably managed, and cover enough important sites for biodiversity and ecosystem services, including marine protected areas,” said Mr Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director during the release of the report at the IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia.
The report was funded by the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) and is the second in a series that monitors global efforts to support and expand protected areas, and supports governments achieve faster progress in the effort. Its findings show the growing global awareness of the need to safeguard the natural resources that will have a crucial role in the upcoming Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
It is also being used to track progress toward meeting Target 11 of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets (Convention on Biological Diversity). The target calls for effectively and equitably managed conservation areas covering at least 17 per cent of the world’s terrestrial areas and ten per cent of marine areas by 2020.
“We are committed to ensure that our promises are not empty. What we need to see behind those figures are protected areas that are well and equitably managed, healthy, strong and able to deliver the full range of benefits that are essential for the survival of biodiversity and the well-being of people around the world,” said IUCN Director General, Julia Marton-Lefevre.
However, the report has found that the physical coverage aspect of the target could be met, except for a lack of progress in other areas. For example, ensuring protected areas are appropriately located in areas important for biodiversity and ecosystem services, are effectively and equitably managed, and are well connected.
But 1.6 million km squared of new protected areas have been designated since 2012, and the total additional global coverage since 2010 equals 6.1 million km squared (an area almost the size
of Australia), according to the report’s statistics.
Indeed, despite the positive indications, the UNEP report warns that without concerted global action on appropriate targeting of areas to come under protection, integrated and improved national planning, and assessments of how protected areas are effectively managed, the overall target will not be met.
These areas are essential to the conservation of species, ecosystems and the livelihoods they support, and also play a vital part in adapting to and mitigating the impacts of climate change. They reduce risks from natural hazards and provide a carbon sink through forests, 7.8 million kms squared of which are in protected areas.
“Protected areas not only provide us with a vital ecological safety net but also play a vital economic role through the valuable ecosystem services they provide, from supplying water and timber, to sustaining tourism.
“As we work toward a comprehensive climate agreement, with the next meeting shortly taking place in Lima, and shape the post-2015 sustainable development agenda, it is crucial to expand protected areas in a targeted manner—thus supporting efforts to tackle climate change, and protecting biodiversity and the ecosystem services that sustain all of us,” said Steiner.
An increase of terrestrial protected area coverage by about one million km squared has been achieved since 2010, 126,000km squared of which came since 2012. 20.6 million km squared of terrestrial and inland water areas are now covered in total. To cover 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland waters, 2.2 million addition- al km squared of protected areas are needed.
Just over six million km squared of marine protected areas have been added since 2010, with 1.5 million km squared of this total coming since 2012. In total, 12 million km squared of the global ocean is now covered.
While marine areas are lagging terrestrial areas in attaining the target, real progress has been made in areas within coastal waters and national jurisdiction; reaching coverage of 10.9 per cent and 8.4 per cent respectively.
However, only 0.25 per cent of seas beyond national jurisdiction are covered by marine protected areas, demonstrating a gap in conservation efforts and highlighting the urgent need to overcome challenges in establishing such areas where national governance systems do not exist.
To meet the ten per cent target in areas within national jurisdiction, a further 2.2 million km squared of marine areas will be required. In addition, 21.5 million km squared in the high seas need to be protected for the target of 10 per cent to be attained.
Recent increases at sea are mainly due to the establishment of huge areas in waters around Australia, New Caledonia and Britain’s South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. In 2014, New Caledonia designated all of its jurisdictional waters as a marine protected area, encompassing an area of about 1.2 million km squared, the largest protected area in the world.
If these areas were removed from the global marine statistics, coverage would be halved to only 1.8 per cent of the global ocean area and 4.4 per cent of jurisdictional waters
Just over six million km squared of marine protected areas have been added
with since 2010, 1.5 million km squared of this total coming since 2012