T. V. Padma
South Asia regional coordinator, SciDev.Net
Protected areas are not simply places for elephants or tigers. They offer immense — and unappreciated – services in terms of food, water and ecological security, says Sarath Gidda, working on protected areas at the CBD secretariat, Montreal. They offer livelihood security to a quarter – two billion – people worldwide; are home to medicinal plants; abode of wild plants; and hold a quarter of carbon stocks.
Protected areas (PAs) – which today cover 12.7% the global land area and 1.6 % of oceans – are receiving attention at the COP-11 conference of CBD and a working group is addressing PAs today (Wednesday).
A Protected Planet report 2012, released on Wednesday, tracked the progress of PAs and progress towards Target 11 of the 20 global Aichi targets for biodiversity. The target states that by 2020, at least 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water areas, and 10% of coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem service are conserved.
From 1990 to 2010, terrestrial PA increased from 8.8% t to 12.7%; and from 0.9% to 4% in marine areas, the report says.
That’s the good news. Now the rest. Colleen Corrigan, UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre, who presented key findings of the report, says that on the terrestrial side only 12.7% of the 17% PA coverage target has been met, and on the marine side only 4% of the 10% PA coverage target has been achieved.
Despite increase in PAs, biodiversity loss continues, as Stephen Woolley, co-chair of the IUCN’s task force on biodiversity outcomes, pointed out. The Protect Planet 2012 report identified the challenges. The global protected area network is not ecologically representative, with no protection in hundreds of the world’s 1055 ecoregions; and important sites for biodiversity and threatened species.
Experts also face challenges in estimating exactly how much additional PAs are needed. If they are to be ecologically representative, the more than the initial estimates of additional six million square kms of terrestrial and inland waters areas; and eight million square kms of marine areas need to be protected.
On the other hand, if one considers the undocumented and unrecognised areas conserved as scared sites by indigenous communities, then one would be pretty close to the Aichi targets already.
A side-event on protected areas identified bad management as the core problem of protected areas. “So run them well,” says Woolley.
Woolley’s team is setting up a global data centre. Hope that will ease things out.
This blog post is part of our coverage on COP 11 Convention on Biological Diversity — which takes place 8–19 October 2012.