Nature retention, not just protection

Sun sets in Nature's Valley, South Africa/Photo by Charl Van Rooy

Nature retention, not just protection, crucial to maintaining biodiversity and ecosystems

June 27, 2018 by 

Is it time to completely rethink how we design the goals of conservation programs? Some scientists say it is.

In a paper published last week in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, a team of Australian researchers argue that we need to shift conservation goals to focus on diverse and ambitious “nature retention targets” if we’re to truly safeguard the environment, biodiversity, and humanity.

The researchers, who are affiliated with Australia’s University of Queensland (UQ) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), make a distinction between targets aimed at retaining natural systems and the current model that seeks to achieve targets for setting aside land as protected areas.

Whereas targets aimed at retaining nature can be determined by measuring what is needed to achieve conservation goals like preserving water quality, carbon sequestration, or biodiversity levels, protected area targets are “blind to what is needed” and don’t have a clear end goal, paper co-author James Watson of UQ and WCS told Mongabay.

For instance, Aichi Target 11, established by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in 2010, calls for at least 17 percent of terrestrial and inland water areas and 10 percent of coastal and marine areas around the world be gazetted as protected areas by 2020. But that may not be sufficient to guarantee the ecological functions humans and biodiversity require, according to Watson and his colleagues.

“Right now, there is no clear endgame and we don’t know what victory looks like on a map and who needs to do what,” Watson said.

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