“Protected areas are a valuable tool in the fight to preserve biodiversity. We need them to be well managed, and we need more of them, but they alone cannot solve our biodiversity problems,” Camilo Mora of University of Hawaii at Mora. Dr. Mora and Dr. Peter F. Sale, Assistant Director of the United Nations University’s Canadian-based Institute for Water, Environment and Health recently published an assessment in the 28 July 2011 issue of Marine Ecology Progress Series citing that the current protect area strategy is not adequate for addressing biodiversity loss. The overview, published in Science Daily, outlines the key points surrounding the fact that despite the increase in protected area coverage, biodiversity is on a step decline. The assessment is clear – current levels of protected area coverage and protected area goals are not significant enough to stop biodiversity loss. But, what is we fully embraced the vision of Nature Needs Half? If at least 50% of the planet were protected and the protected areas were interconnected….would we stop biodiversity loss? What other options do we have? Here are a few bullet points from the overview (read the full overview on Science Daily):
The study says continuing heavy reliance on the protected areas strategy has five key technical and practical limitations:
Expected growth in protected area coverage is too slow
While over 100,000 areas are now protected worldwide, strict enforcement occurs on just 5.8% of land and 0.08% of ocean. At current rates, it will take between 185 years in the case of land and 80 years for oceans to cover 30% of the world’s ecosystems with protected areas — a minimum target widely advocated for effective biodiversity conservation.
This slow pace contrasts sharply with the rapid growth of threats, including climate change, habitat loss and resource exploitation, predicted to cause the extinction of many species even before 2050.
The size and connectivity of protected areas are inadequate
To ensure species’ survival, protected areas must be sufficiently large to sustain viable populations in the face of the inevitable mortality of some individuals trespassing their borders, and areas must be close enough together for a healthy exchange of individuals among protected populations. Globally, however, over 30% of the protected areas in the ocean, and 60% on land are smaller than 1 square kilometer — too small for many larger species. And they tend to be too far apart to allow a sufficient exchange among populations for most species.
Protected areas only ameliorate certain human threats
Biodiversity loss is triggered by a host of human stressors including habitat loss, overexploitation, climate change, pollution and invasive species. Yet protected areas are useful primarily against overexploitation and habitat loss. Since the remaining stressors are just as deleterious, biodiversity can be expected to continue declining as it has done until now. The study shows that approximately 83% of protected areas on the sea and 95% of protected areas on land are located in areas with continuing high impact from multiple human stressors.
Global expenditures on protected areas today are estimated at US $6 billion per year and many areas are insufficiently funded for effective management. Effectively managing existing protected areas requires an estimated $24 billion per year — four times current expenditure. Despite strong advocacy for protected areas, budget growth has been slow and it seems unlikely that it will be possible to raise funding appropriate for effective management as well as for creation of the additional protected areas as is advocated.
Conflicts with human development
Humanity’s footprint on Earth is ever expanding in efforts to meet basic needs like housing and food. If it did prove possible to place the recommended 30% of world habitats under protection, intense conflicts with competing human interests are inevitable — many people would be displaced and livelihoods impaired. Forcing a trade-off between human development and sustaining biodiversity is unlikely to lead to a solution with biodiversity preserved.