Indigenous peoples play growing role in biodiversity protection

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Nature, Jeju, Korea

Community-based conservation is poised to take a starring role in the effort to meet global biodiversity targets. That’s one of the messages of the first-ever Protected Planet Report, released Sept. 7 by the United Nations Environment Programme's World Conservation Monitoring Center (UNEP-WCMC).

The semi-annual report will track progress towards the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets to protect 17% of the area in each of 823 terrestrial ecoregions, and 10% of the area in 232 marine ecoregions (see ‘World gets 2020 vision for conservation’ ). Although the new analysis concludes that the overall size of the protected area network has been approaching that scale, species living there are still not getting enough protection: only one-third of terrestrial ecoregions, and 13% of marine regions, pass muster, the report says.

But the report, unveiled at the IUCN World Conservation Congress, held from 6-15 September in Jeju, South Korea, also reveals a profound shift in the way protected areas are being managed around the world. In 1990, just 14% of protected areas allowed hunting and other sustainable uses of natural resources, but today that number has risen to 32%. At the same time, the extent of protected areas managed exclusively by governments has declined from 96% to 77%, a trend reflecting the rise of community-based conservation and co-management schemes with indigenous peoples. “The protected area network is rapidly changing not only in its area, but in the different approaches to management,” says the report’s lead author, geographer Bastian Bertzky.

In fact, Bertzky says that indigenous reserves and sacred natural sites may be the key that enables countries to meet Aichi targets in such a short time. Only a fraction of such sites meet the requirements of the World Database on Protected Areas, which was used to compile the report, but they would still qualify under the terms of the Convention on Biological Diversity. His colleagues at UNEP-WCMC recently launched the Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas database, and these areas could double estimates of the amount of the land under some form of protection. “We still need to figure out how to include these areas in our global analysis,” he says.

 

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