Conservation Scientists Urge “Bold Global Deal for Nature” as Protected Areas Face Increased Threats
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
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The WWF report, ‘Halting the illegal trade of CITES species from World Heritage Sites,’ notes that despite the protection provided by the World Heritage Convention and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) – “which have been ratified by almost every country in the world" – poaching, illegal logging and illegal fishing occur in over one-quarter of World Heritage sites.

‘An Ecoregion-based Approach to Protecting Half the Terrestrial Realm,’ published in Bioscience journal, sets out the scientific rationale behind a body of recent advocacy and policy papers advancing the concept “Nature Needs Half”.

Diverse strategies for enhancing the management of protected areas are further explored in a number of policy updates and case studies published by IUCN and its partners.

April 2017: A report published by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) notes that wildlife trafficking occurs in nearly 30% of the world’s most protected areas, covered by both the World Heritage Convention (WHC) and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Its conclusion that the current international approach to protecting CITES-listed species “is not working,” is echoed by a group of conservation scientists who have called for a “Global Deal for Nature” – similar to the Paris Agreement on climate change – to conserve 50% of the terrestrial realm by 2050 in order to halt the extinction crisis while sustaining human livelihoods. Diverse strategies for enhancing the management of protected areas are further explored in a number of policy updates and case studies published by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and its partners.

These findings are presented against a backdrop of internationally agreed goals and targets calling for the use of protected areas as a conservation measure. One of the indicators for the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on life on land (SDG 15) addresses the “proportion of important sites for terrestrial and freshwater biodiversity that are covered by protected areas.” Further, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Aichi Targets call for, by 2020, the protection of 17% of terrestrial and inland water ecosystems through “effectively and equitably managed” systems of protected areas.

The WWF report, titled ‘Halting the illegal trade of CITES species from World Heritage Sites,’ notes that despite the protection provided by the WHC and CITES – “which have been ratified by almost every country in the world” – poaching, illegal logging and illegal fishing occur in over one-quarter of World Heritage sites. The report notes that between 1970 and 2012, global wildlife populations declined by almost 60% on average, and continued illegal harvesting in World Heritage sites could lead to the extinction of entire species. At the same time, the report notes, more than 90% of natural World Heritage sites support recreation and tourism as well as provide jobs, and many of these benefits are dependent on the presence of CITES-listed species.

The report identifies the lack of a whole-of-value-chain focus as a key barrier in halting illegal trade in endangered species. The World Heritage Convention, for example, focuses on illegal harvesting and other threats at the site level, while CITES is predominately focused on working with source, transit and consumer countries at the national level. Hence, one of the main recommendations of the report is to enhance collaboration and integration of the two instruments at the national and site levels, enabling “a more coordinated, comprehensive response, and [to] save time and valuable resources.” [WWF Press Release] [Halting the illegal trade of CITES species from World Heritage Sites]

Similar observations are made in a joint study by researchers at the University of Queensland, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), University of Northern British Columbia and the IUCN, which quantified changes in human footprint and forest loss in more than 100 terrestrial natural World Heritage sites between 1993 and 2009. Published in the journal Biological Conservation, the study drew on the updated global ‘Human Footprint’ dataset developed by WCS, as well as results from the Global Forest Watch initiative to measure forest loss between 2000 and 2012.

Incorporating new elements such as population density, agriculture, urbanization, transportation and industrial infrastructure, the analysis reveals that forests occurring in natural World Heritage sites have decreased 91% in cases from 2000 and 2012. Despite the extent of degradation, the study notes that, on the whole, World Heritage sites have suffered less damaged than surrounding areas. While this suggests listed sites overall fare better in terms of protection, the authors caution that the findings also indicate that protected areas “are becoming increasingly isolated and are under threat from processes occurring outside their borders.”

The findings will be used for monitoring IUCN’s advisory role towards the World Heritage Committee, as well as in the IUCN World Heritage Outlook assessments that are due for update at the end of 2017.” [IUCN Press Release] [Recent Increases in Human Pressure and Forest Loss Threaten Many Natural World Heritage Sites]

‘An Ecoregion-based Approach to Protecting Half the Terrestrial Realm,’ which was published in Bioscience journal on 14 April 2017, sets out the scientific rationale behind the body of recent advocacy and policy papers advancing the concept “Nature Needs Half.” Describing the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Aichi target 11 to protect 17% of terrestrial land and inland water areas by 2020 as “achievable but insufficient,” the paper argues that this “is not a science-based level of protection that will achieve representation of all species or ecosystems in protected areas and the conservation of global biodiversity, as are required by the CBD.”

Using a map of 846 terrestrial ecoregions, the paper explains that 98 ecoregions (12%) exceed the “Half Protected” goal; 313 ecoregions (37%) “fall short of Half Protected, but have sufficient unaltered habitat remaining to reach the target”; and 207 ecoregions (24%) “are in peril,” with only 4% of natural habitat, on average, remaining. The scientists state that the goal of the Global Deal for Nature would be to “promote increased habitat protection and restoration, national- and ecoregion-scale conservation strategies, and the empowerment of indigenous peoples to protect their sovereign lands.” [UN Environment – World Conservation Monitoring Centre Press Release] [An Ecoregion-Based Approach to Protecting Half the Terrestrial Realm] [Aichi Biodiversity Targets]

An IUCN manual published in 2016 provides guidance for the management of “Multi-Internationally Designated Areas” (MIDAs), which fall under at least two of the following four designated areas: Ramsar Sites under the Ramsar Convention; natural and mixed World Heritage properties, as well as cultural landscapes, under the World Heritage Convention; Biosphere Reserves recognized within the World Network of Biosphere Reserves of the UN Environmental, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Man and the Biosphere Program; and UNESCO Global Geoparks, which are part of the UNESCO International Geoscience and Geoparks Program.

Out of more than 3,300 Internationally Designated Areas in 2015, around 263 were located in areas with at least two overlapping jurisdictions. Looking specifically at some challenges as well as opportunities for managing MIDAs in Africa, the March 2017 newsletter of the IUCN Program on African Protected areas & Conservation (PAPACO), notes that the situation at the national level is further complicated when different authorities are in charge of the same MIDA, and when no harmonized legal or administrative framework exists to enhance coordination. If managed well, however, multiple international designations can help contribute to raise national visibility and global site prestige, “which in turn helps to reinforce the economic base of the area through tourism and the marketing of locally branded products,” the article notes. [IUCN/PAPACO News Update, March 2017] [Managing MIDAS : harmonising the management of Multi-Internationally Designated Areas] [SDG Knowledge Hub story on IUCN World Conservation Congress Review of MIDAs Guidance]

The theme of capacity development is explored further in the March 2017 edition of PARKS, a publication of IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas. The publication discusses the potential of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), and other distance learning tools, in building capacities for nature conservation among frontline protected area workers. In 2016, PAPACO and Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) coordinated the first MOOC on the management of protected areas in Africa, which attracted more than 7,000 participants from 116 countries, of whom 65% were from African countries. The authors note that the advantage of such an approach is the opportunity to develop strong networks among participants, offering a platform for continuous learning by continuing to interact with practitioners at the conclusion of the course and developing complementary courses to address other capacity gaps.

The publication also discusses recent experience in using participatory scenario planning (PSP) to encourage scientists, citizens and policy makers to explore the most feasible governance options in biodiversity hotspots and other complex settings. Outlining the outcomes of the PSP process used in a recent consultation in Spain, the article notes that participants showed a preference for diverse funding and governance models in protected areas, as well as a broader approach towards biodiversity and ecosystem services. The authors observe that this is in line with previously observed trends in protected area evolution globally, where protected areas managed or co-managed with non-governmental actors increased from 4% to 23% in the period 1990 to 2010. Increased diversification is described as more likely to contribute to, among other benefits: increased resilience; improved conservation and socioeconomic outcomes; and better inclusion of local communities and an integrated landscape approach in protected area governance.

The journal further explores three case studies of innovative financing and management of protected areas in Africa: a Benefit Sharing Agreement to compensate local communities dependent on the Gola rainforest in Sierra Leone; biodiversity stewardship agreements with private landowners in South Africa; and the use of debt swaps and funding agreements to sustain Côte d’Ivoire’s protected area network. Some important preconditions for success are identified as, inter alia: maintaining long-term relations through intermediary organizations; finding champions; building local capacities as well as legitimacy; and tackling uncertainties linked to the variability of markets and high transaction costs. [PARKS. The International Journal of Protected Areas and Conservation, Volume 23.1] [IUCN Press Release on Guidance for Managing Protected Areas in the Face of Climate Change] [Adapting to Climate Change Best Practice Guidelines, Guidance for protected area managers and planners]

Improved data and information sharing is an important component in strengthening the governance of protected areas. The Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) manages the Pacific Islands Protected Area Portal (PIPAP), which is designed as a one-stop web-based resource to store, manage and share data and information on protected areas in the region, in support of the CBD’s Aichi Targets. During a national workshop, co-organized by SPREP and the Samoa Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment on 21 February 2017, participants identified priority follow up actions, including the establishment and formal endorsement of a national protected areas technical working committee for Samoa. The workshop was organized under the auspices of the EU-supported Biodiversity and Protected Areas Management (BIOPAMA) Programme, which is implemented by IUCN and regional partners in Africa, Caribbean and Pacific countries. [BIOPAMA Press Release on Samoa Workshop]

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