Forest elephant, Nouabale Ndoki National Park, Republic of Congo (Credit: Kyle de Nobrega )

Scientists Say World’s Protected Areas Need a Re-Boot

Publishing in the journal Science, scientists propose a bold new target that would stave off biodiversity loss

Newswise — NEW YORK (April 11, 2019) – An international study published today in the journal Science argues that the current international target for the protected area estate, accepted by over 190 nations, is failing. They propose a new measurable target based on the best scientific evidence that they say will galvanize greater and more effective conservation efforts.

The study identifies four major problems with the United Nation’s Aichi Target 11 – which calls for protection of at least 17 percent of terrestrial and inland water areas and 10 percent of coastal and marine areas. The authors say the target has led to perverse outcomes and has not fostered effective conservation efforts. The use of simple percentage targets for protected areas means that there is an incentive to create large protected areas of little conservation value. Other problems with Aichi Target 11 design and implementation include the lack of incentives in the target and resources dedicated to adequately manage or fund protected areas, inadequate representation of natural communities and species within protected area borders, and the impossibility to define national responsibilities towards the global target in a meaningful way.

Lead author Dr. Piero Visconti of the International Institute for Applied Synthesis Analysis, said: “While there has been a significant increase in the overall extent of the global protected area estate over the past 10 years, many of the new protected areas are being placed in sites that are not as important for biodiversity. Other, more important sites are left unprotected and are vanishing before our eyes. There is also clear evidence that the vast majority of protected areas are not being funded and managed in ways that stop damaging human activities.”

The study’s authors argue that outcome-based targets for protected areas are needed to achieve biodiversity goals. They propose the following new target: “The value of all sites of global significance for biodiversity including key biodiversity areas is documented, retained and restored through protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures.”

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