Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Not just paper parks

Aichi target 11 of the Convention of Biological Diversity promotes the expansion of the global protected area network to cover 17 percent of all terrestrial land and ­10 percent of coastal and marine areas by 2020.

At the recent World Parks Congress organized by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in Sydney, Australia, conservation professionals drafted twelve innovative approaches, as part of the 'Promise of Sydney', to help transform decision-making, policy, capacity and financing for protected areas in the next decade. The document includes a list of 20 important recommendations to help reach global conservation goals. Many of the recommendations are provided for single countries to take action individually. 

It has been shown that working at the country level is less efficient than promoting transnational collaborations. As a result, platforms that support international collaborations from planning based on improved data to effective management should be strengthened.

They also state that mechanisms for international collaboration should be in place and strengthened quickly, as global change and other threats are quickly eroding biodiversity. Collaborations are crucial in specific key areas, e.g. more data are needed on the distribution of species, particularly for plants and for less known groups such as invertebrates. Creating and maintaining the core data resources should also be secured. The researchers also state that the current protected area network is biased towards higher lands and unproductive landscapes, missing many priority areas for conservation. As such, many species are currently not protected.

There should also be an emphasis on protecting all species that are currently unprotected globally. Meeting a percentage target of protected area coverage within individual countries is not enough. In addition, the international community should ensure that resources are available to effectively manage protected areas once they are established.

Protected areas are the cornerstone of biodiversity conservation. However, maintaining biodiversity values in the future—by mitigating the negative impacts of threats—requires effective protected area management. The information needed to assess management effectiveness is missing from most protected areas. A recent assessment on a very limited number of protected areas, for example, concluded that only 24 percent had sound management. The main limitations to the effective management of protected areas arise from the lack of financial resources (especially in developing countries) or deficiencies in management (e.g., lack of skilled staff). As a result, international donors should increase funding for protected area management in developing countries, where financial resources are scarcer. Funding could also be ­generated through the development of innovative financial mechanisms (e.g., ­biobanking or ­conservation easements) on private and community-owned land. Enhanced national and international collaborations in capacity-development activities should also be promoted as a means of sharing the best management practice experience in order to support protected area managers. This would help managers better involve local stakeholders in management decisions and develop appropriate responses to changes in threats.

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