Half of the world's richest biodiversity zones entirely unprotected, UN report warns

Saturday, October 20, 2012
[Photo Credit: UNifeed]
Hyderabad: A new UN report warns that despite the growing number of nature reserves, national parks and other protected areas across the globe, half of the world's richest biodiversity zones remain entirely unprotected.

The "Protected Planet Report 2012" was launched on Thursday in Hyderabad, India at the 11th Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 11). It received the official backing of countries at COP 11 this week as a major contribution towards tracking progress on global efforts to increase protected areas.

Produced by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP)'s World Conservation Monitoring Centre in partnership with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the study is the first in an annual series that will monitor global efforts to support and expand protected areas.

The report says that protected areas have increased in number by almost 60 per cent, and in area by just under 50 per cent, since 1990. But the study states that poor management, underfunding and a lack of critical data on protected areas mean that the world is making insufficient progress towards the 2020 goals.

The report says that the ecological performance of protected areas remains poorly understood. Further studies are needed to analyze the impacts of protected areas on species, ecosystems and genetic resources.

At the launch, Trevor Sandwith of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said that protected areas help keep carbon in forests, thereby avoiding emissions into the atmosphere. He also said that looking at coral reefs and island communities, "people live on the coast lines and are dependent on the protected areas for their very daily protein intake".

Jerry Harrison of UNEP's World Conservation Monitoring Centre pointed out that there are far more protected areas on land than in marine areas.

While twelve percent of terrestrial areas are protected, marine protected areas are lagging behind, according to the report. Around 1.6 per cent of the global ocean area is protected, mostly in near-coastal areas. To meet the target of ten percent, an additional eight million square kilometres of marine and coastal areas would need to be recognized as protected - an area just over the size of Australia.

However, the UNEP study states that the number of very large marine protected areas has grown significantly in recent years. Today, there are over 13 such areas, each bigger than 100,000 square kilometres. Overall, marine protected area coverage has increased by over 150 percent since 2003.
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