Nature Needs Half: A Necessary and Hopeful New Agenda for Protected Areas

Originally published in the Nature New South Wales Journal Article by: Harvey Locke, Founder of the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, writer and photographer Conservation targets should be based on what is necessary to protect nature in all its expressions. When, in 1988, the Brundtland report called for tripling the world’s protected area estate (which was then at 3 to 4 per cent of the land area) there was a strong belief that sustainable development would ensure the proper care for nature on the rest of the unprotected earth. This has proven wrong. We therefore must materially shift our protected areas target to protect at least half of the world, land and water, in an interconnected way to conform with what conservation biologists have learned about the needs of nature. Instead we have set goals that are politically determined, with arbitrary percentages that rest on an unarticulated hope that such non-scientific goals are a good first step towards some undefined better future outcome. This has been a destructive form of self-censorship. It is time for conservationists to reset the debate based on scientific findings and assert nature’s needs fearlessly.  Boreal forest wilderness. McQuesten River valley, central Yukon Territory, Canada It is well settled scientifically that humanity’s relationship with the natural world is in trouble. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Parry et al, 2007) stated bluntly: “The resilience of many ecosystems is likely to be exceeded this century by an unprecedented combination of climate change, associated disturbances (e.g., flooding, drought, wildfire, insects, ocean acidification), and other global change drivers (e.g., land use change, pollution, overexploitation of resources)”. The human species has become so dominant that some argue we have entered a new geological age dominated not by the chemical and physical workings of the earth as they...

Nature Needs Half in the Earth Island Journal

Originally published in the Earth Island Journal by William H. Funk Conservation group promoting an ambitious new proposal for wilderness protection During the last half century conservationists around the world have won some impressive victories to protect wild places. Here in the US, the Wilderness Act preserves some 110 million acres of public land. Private holdings by groups like The Nature Conservancy safeguard tens of millions of additional acres. The idea of protecting ecosystems from industrial development has spread around the world. There’s the Mavuradonha Wilderness in Zimbabwe, the El Carmen ecosystem in northern Mexico, Kissama National Park in Angola, and the Tasmanian Wilderness in Australia, to name just a few stunning parks and preserves; UNESCO’s world heritage list includes 197 sites of special beauty and/or biodiversity. Photo by Trey Ratcliff Nature Needs Half has set out an unbelievable challenge: to formally, legally set aside one half of Earth’s land and water as interconnected natural areas. But conservation biologists now recognize that these sanctuaries are limited in what they can accomplish precisely because they are special — which is to say, rare. Parks and preserves are all too often islands of biological integrity in a sea of human development. To really protect natural systems, healthy biomes need to be the rule, not the exception. To achieve that vision, The WILD Foundation, a multinational NGO based in Boulder, Colorado, is pushing a bold concept called “Nature Needs Half.” In a world in which even the wealthiest governments routinely abdicate their responsibilities toward future generations and the environment, Nature Needs Half has set out an unbelievable challenge: to formally, legally set aside one half of Earth’s land...

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. >...

A recipe for balancing northern development with environmental protection

While environmentalist and industry views about Northern Australia’s development almost completely differ, it’s difficult to see how a fair balance can be struck. Conservationist and former Canadian Liberal Party candidate Harvey Locke has spent a lifetime researching how to weigh up the interests of industry and the environment, in the United States and Canada. He suggests development should focus on centers of high value industry, while making sure ecosystems remain healthy and linked. > Watch this short interview with, Harvey Locke, strategic advisor to The WILD Foundation & Nature Needs Half Transcript: JANE BARDON, REPORTER: Harvey Locke welcome to 730. HARVEY LOCKE, CANADIAN CONSERVATIONIST: Thank you. JANE BARDON: You’re basically working on a very different vision for developing or managing northern Australia, what are the key things that you’re looking for in your vision? HARVEY LOCKE, CANADIAN CONSERVATIONIST: Northern Australia is one of the great intact systems in the world. Doesn’t mean it’s in perfect shape but it’s in awfully good shape. And there are a few places like that, we have the Boreal Forest, the Ardakan, the Rocky Mountains in Northern Canada for example in a similar condition. And I’m interested in working with people who want to think about that as a spectacular opportunity in the 21st century to do things a little differently than we’ve done before. JANE BARDON: Are you looking at basically almost a chain of reserves or are you thinking some of this preservation of the tropical savannah for example could include some low impact grazing systems et cetera, as well for the cattle industry? HARVEY LOCKE, CANADIAN CONSERVATIONIST: The idea would be that...

Go WILD…For a Change

Article originally published in Sanctuary Asia magazine, February 2013, by Vance G. Martin, president of The WILD Foundation “Our climate is on steroids” is the catchy metaphor used by Dr. Gerald Meehl of the National Centre for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in my hometown of Boulder, Colorado. One of those rare scientists with a flair for communication, Dr. Meehl makes a good comparison when he likens greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to steroids in the body of a champion athlete. Steroids alone do not create the champion competitor – rather, they create an enhanced environment in which other factors such as training, diet, and attitude are better able to combine to cause the effect. Similarly, while greenhouse gases in the atmosphere do lead to a rise in temperature, they also, more importantly, create an enhanced situation in which other existing phenomena such as weather patterns like La Nina/El Nino, jet stream fluctuations, etc., can interact in varied and more extreme ways to create what is called climate change.   While this metaphor is apt, it only describes the condition we face, not the cause of it. In response, you might say that the cause of climate change is the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. That is the physical cause, yes, but of course there is something deeper that we need to address, i.e., the human activities that fuel the release of these greenhouse gases, which in turn hasten climate change. Actions such as political awareness, legislation and policy are important, but they still only address the symptoms. If we want to cure the condition, we need to address its cause. To get to the root of this situation (and subsequently create a more effective solution), let’s shift our metaphor to one of illness and cure. The human race is addicted to growth, greed, and...
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