Making the next ten years count for protected areas

On the eve of the World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia, ALERT member James Watson tells us about a hugely important paper he and colleagues published this week in the world-leading journal Nature.

Ten years have passed since the last IUCN global conference on protected areas.  During this time we've seen tens of thousands of new protected areas established on land and in the sea. 

Unfortunately, at the same time, protected-area support has fallen off dramatically, with an estimated 80% of such sites now being ineffectively managed.

Needs a home: Mountain gorillas now survive in just a few protected areas in East Africa  (photo (c) Liana Joseph)

Needs a home: Mountain gorillas now survive in just a few protected areas in East Africa (photo (c) Liana Joseph)

It’s a massive shame.  When well administered, protected areas get results.  There is abundant evidence that protected areas, when well managed, protect threatened species and often store large quantities of carbon while delivering key ecosystem services, such as clean water and buffering against extreme weather.

Nevertheless, we show today in a paper in Nature that, while many nations talk the talk on protected-area creation, they often fail to walk the walk when it comes to ensuring these areas have adequate resources and oversight.

Poor financing of many protected areas is a core problem, but thornier challenges include the opening of parks to resource extraction and the loss of their special 'inviolate' status.  In our paper we document many cases where Ministries responsible for mining or logging issued leases on areas already designated as “protected.”

If the nations of the world continue to follow a business-as-usual approach, the broad targets set under the vital Convention on Biological Diversity won't be achieved.

A fundamental step-change is needed to align government policies so that Ministries dealing with development, resource extraction, and agriculture don't undermine those concerned with environment and conservation.

At the same time, there's an urgent need to invest in protected areas to ensure their vital goals are achieved, and to identify new protected areas critical to nature conservation -- areas that can be established and maintained with care and imagination.

Achieving these goals on our increasingly crowded planet will not be easy.  A nation's progress should be measured not merely by the amount of land it protects, but also by the ecological connectivity of its protected lands and their capacity to sustain biodiversity while producing long-term social and economic benefits.

It's a massive challenge, but failure is not an option.  We must succeed -- for the future of nature and for our future as well.


Green groups in 'desperate' bid to halt Australian eco-calamity

DESPERATE.  That's about the only word that could describe the last-ditch efforts of Australian green groups to slow the Tony Abbott government's relentless march to push business and development interests, no matter the environmental cost.

Greenies are feeling blue Down Under...

Greenies are feeling blue Down Under...

Having had no luck at all in influencing the Abbott government, a coalition of Australian environmental groups are now imploring the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity -- a longstanding global accord to which Australia is a signatory --- to censure the government for its anti-environmental ways.

Specifically, the green groups want the CBD to slam the Abbott government's scheme for a so-called 'one-stop shop' -- a greatly simplified way to approve environmentally risky projects by devolving responsibility to the individual Australian states, where pro-development interests usually have more sway.

it's a formula for disaster, say conservationists, especially given the conservative nature of many Australian state governments right now.

Such measures are likely to lead to lower environmental standards, conflicted decision-making, and ultimately a loss of biodiversity -- all of which are contrary to Australia's commitments under the CBD, say conservationists.

Having exhausted virtually every possible avenue within Australia, conservationists are now being forced to look abroad for help.

It's a sign of the times and -- as summarized in this excellent essay by ALERT member Corey Bradshaw on his ConservationBytes site -- a telling indication of just how bad things have gotten for the Australian environment.