World protected areas reach only 15% of its land but crucial biodiversity zones are left out.
The 2016 Protected Planet report, released in the World Conservation Congress, shows that 14.7% of the Earth's land and 10% of its territorial waters are under protection. Also only 4% of the global ocean are protected. The 14.7% represents 20 million square kilometers, but is still far from the 17% target set for 2020.
Also crucial biodiversity areas are being left out (less than 20% are protected) and habitats have been affected by the mismanagement of these areas.
"The world needs to do more to effectively protect our most biologically diverse spaces. Protected areas need to be better connected, to allow populations of animals and plants to mix and spread. Also important is ensuring local communities are involved in protection efforts. Their support is fundamental to long-term conservation," said UN Environment Head Erik Solheim.
Middle East has the lowest land protection rate, with only 3% (119,000 square km). Instead Latin America and the Caribbean have 4.85 million km (24% of its land) protected, with half located in Brazil.
Despite there is still work to be done, the marine protected areas have increased from just over 4 million in 2006 to nearly 15 million square km in 2016.
The report assesses how protected areas contribute to achieving the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. They were adopted in 2010 as part of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2010-2020 and contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals agreed in Paris.
The report recommends investing in protected areas to strengthen sustainable management of fisheries, control invasive species, cope with climate change and reduce harmful incentives, such as subsidies, which threaten biodiversity. These would help to halt biodiversity loss, improve food and water security, enable vulnerable human communities to better cope with natural disasters and conserve traditional knowledge.
"The only way to solve Earth's biodiversity and create a truly sustainable world is to take a giant leap. The goal then should be is to raise the area reserved for natural species and ecosystems from 15% land and 3% of the sea to one half of the land and one half of the sea," said Professor Edward O. Wilson, University Research Professor Emeritus at Harvard.
The World Conservation Congress, running from September 1-10 in Honolulu, the capital of the U.S Pacific state of Hawaii has drawn 9,500 participants from 192 countries, including delegates from governments, NGO's and business and scientific communities.
The congress is held every four years by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
LatinAmerican Post | Maria Andrea Marquez