Will protection of 17% of land by 2020 be enough to safeguard biodiversity and critical ecosystem services?

Originally published in the Oryx International Journal of Conservation, 2014  Frank W. Larsen, Will R. Turner and Russell A. Mittermeier Abstract To stem the loss of biodiversity and ensure continued provision of essential ecosystem services world leaders adopted the 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets in 2010, to be fulfilled by 2020. One key target (Target 11) prescribes an expansion of the global protected area system to at least 17% of land surface and 10% of oceans by 2020. Given that these targets are predominantly based on political feasibility rather than scientific evidence, it remains unclear whether fulfilment of Target 11 will suffice to safeguard biodiversity and ensure continued provision of essential ecosystem services. Despite many data gaps, in particular for ecosystem services, we can use existing global data to estimate the required protected area on land for biodiversity (a minimum of c. 17%) and biomass carbon storage (a minimum of c. 7–14% additional area to protect 75–90% of the unprotected carbon stock), which illustrates that the target of 17% of land will probably fall short in meeting these goals. As crossing thresholds or tipping points in ecosystems could trigger non-linear, abrupt change in delivery of ecosystem services, we need a science-driven understanding of how much protected, intact nature is needed to avoid unforeseen transgression of planetary boundaries. > Read the full article...

Local Scale Comparisons of Biodiversity as a Test for Global Protected Area Ecological Performance: A Meta-Analysis

Originally published via PLOS ONE | August 2014 | Volume 9 | Issue 8  Bernard W. T. Coetzee 1,2*, Kevin J. Gaston 3, Steven L. Chown 2 1 Centre for Invasion Biology, Department of Botany and Zoology, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, Western Cape, South Africa, 2 School of Biological Sciences, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 3 Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter, Penryn, Cornwall, United Kingdom Figure 1. Map of the study sites by the centroid coordinates of protected areas for inside-outside pairwise comparisons (black dots; n = 71) and inside only comparisons (red dots; n = 32). Both categories include data where studies reported across clusters of protected areas. Abstract Terrestrial protected areas (PAs) are cornerstones of global biodiversity conservation. Their efficacy in terms of maintaining biodiversity is, however, much debated. Studies to date have been unable to provide a general answer as to PA conservation efficacy because of their typically restricted geographic and/or taxonomic focus, or qualitative approaches focusing on proxies for biodiversity, such as deforestation. Given the rarity of historical data to enable comparisons of biodiversity before/after PA establishment, many smaller scale studies over the past 30 years have directly compared biodiversity inside PAs to that of surrounding areas, which provides one measure of PA ecological performance. Here we use a meta-analysis of such studies (N = 86) to test if PAs contain higher biodiversity values than surrounding areas, and so assess their contribution to determining PA efficacy. We find that PAs generally have higher abundances of individual  species, higher assemblage abundances, and higher species richness values compared with alternative land uses. Local scale studies in combination thus show that PAs retain more biodiversity than alternative land use areas. >...

The Scary New Math of Warming

Toronto Star, The Scary New Math of Warming; published 21 November 2009 by Peter Gorrie A recent environmental summit set ambitious new targets for reducing greenhouse gasses. If new environmental campaigns take hold, you’ll hear a lot about two numbers during the next few months. If they succeed, you could find yourself living, and thinking, differently. The numbers are 350 and 50. The first is a target for reducing the carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere. The second refers to the minimum percentage of land and ocean that must be protected from development to ward off climate change and prevent the extinction of many plants and animals. >>Read the full...

Conservation Beyond Crisis Management

Conservation Beyond Crisis Management: A Conservation-Matrix Model A Discussion Paper for the Canadian BEACONs Project In many regions of the world, failure to plan effectively for conservation of biological diversity has led to irretrievable losses of ecosystem structure and function or, at least, a need for expensive and risky restoration efforts. In relatively intact systems, planning pro-actively for biological conservation requires a systems approach that integrates the fields of conservation biology and resource management. We evaluate current conservation paradigms and describe an alternative, Conservation-matrix model for regional conservation that exploits the strengths of systematic conservation planning and adaptive resource management. We explore application of this model for boreal regions of Canada, where opportunities for large-scale conservation are virtually unparalleled. Read the full paper Read a 1-page extract Boreal Scientists letter to the Canadian Government,...

Conservation Targets: Do They Help?

Conservation Targets: Do They Help? By Michael E. Soulé & M. A. Sanjayan; Science, New Series, Vol. 279, No. 5359. (Mar. 27, 1998), pp. 2060-2061. The most irreversible environmental problem of this era is the projected rapid loss of biodiversity, including the disappearance of up to half the world’s species. In response, many international commissions and nature conservation organizations have called for the near-term protection of at least 10 or 12% of the total land area in each nation or in each ecosystem. If successful, this campaign would double or triple the land area now designated as national parks or similar strict reserves. We are concerned, however, that these target percentages could become de facto ceilings of protection and imply that protecting 10% or so of the land is sufficient to prevent the predicted major extinction event. >>Read the full...

How Much is Enough?

Center for Large Landscape Conservation; Literature Review on Select Topics in Landscape Conservation; May 27, 2010 How much is enough? What is the minimum area required to ensure the maintenance of biodiversity in an area? A 10 percent (or 12%) conservation target of land area in each nation (Myers 1979, Miller 1984, Soule and Sanjayan 1998) is frequently cited and has been recurrently used in setting policy, though with little biological support. Soule and Sanjayan (1998) interviewed a set of biologists and land managers about this target and most agreed that it was developed for political expediency and was too small to protect biodiversity. Based on published parameters for the species-area relationship, there would be a 50% decline in species with a 90% loss of area. A sample of conservation estimates from published studies with varying biodiversity objectives found that approximately 50% (range: 33 – 75%) of the land area needs to be protected (Soule and Sanjayan 1998). >>Read the full...
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