While the world is on track to meet a 2020 target on the expansion of protected areas, more work is needed to ensure areas of importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services are prioritized for protection under equitably managed conditions, according to a new United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report released today.
“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,” UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said today at the 2014 International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Parks Congress, in Sydney.
The Protected Planet Report series, launched in 2012, helps track international progress towards achieving Aichi Biodiversity Target 11 – a target for the global protected area network and for other related targets.
In 2010, the signatories to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) agreed on a 10 year strategic plan to halt biodiversity loss and ensure the sustainable and equitable use of natural resources. This plan set out 20 biodiversity targets to be achieved by 2020 – the Aichi Biodiversity Targets .
Target 11 calls for 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.
Due to steady increases in coverage over the last number of years, protected areas now cover 15.4 per cent of the world’s terrestrial area and 8.4 per cent of the marine areas under national jurisdiction.
This increase reflects the importance that countries are placing upon the conservation of biodiversity and the ecosystem services they provide, the report said.
“This report shows that the will to do so is present,” Mr. Achim said. It’s time now to build support and funding to ensure protected areas cover enough important sites for biodiversity and ecosystem services-including marine protected areas.
But the report warns that Target 11 will not be met solely by measuring the geographical coverage of protected areas.
Without concerted global action directed at areas to come under protection, improved national planning, and assessments of how protected areas are effectively managed, Target 11 will not be met by 2020.
The target contains a number of qualitative elements including effectiveness, equitability, connectivity and ecological representation, each of which need to be better understood and addressed before it can be said that this particular target has been attained.
Protected Planet 2014 also highlights a lack of progress in other areas, such as ensuring protected areas are appropriately located in areas important for biodiversity and ecosystem services, are effectively and equitably managed, and are well-connected.
“We are committed to making sure that our promises are not empty,” IUCN Director General Julia Marton-Lefèvre said today.
“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 wellbeing of people around the world,” she added.
The report was produced by UNEP’s World Conversation Monitoring Centre (WCMC) in partnership with IUCN, and funded by the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN), Protected Planet not only monitors global efforts to support and expand protected areas, but supports governments toward faster progress with recommendations for action.