Creating global protected areas 'insufficient' to prevent species decline, UN report warns

·2-min read

Hitting the global target for protected land is "insufficient" to prevent biodiversity loss, the UN has warned, as species continue to decline.

Although the world has made vast strides in designating protected land and marine areas, it has fallen short on its management of these zones, according to a new UN Environment Programme report.

It reveals that the world has hit a 2010 target to protect 17% of land and inland waters, with 16.64% now known to fall within a conservation area, and much more thought to exist but not yet be reported.

However, the global community missed the other half of the target to protect 10% of the marine environment, with currently 7.74% safeguarded.

Neville Ash, director of the UN Environment Programme's World Conservation Monitoring Centre welcomed the "great progress", but warned that simply designating areas as protected was "insufficient".

He said: "They need to be effectively managed and equitably governed if they are to realise their many benefits... and secure a better future for people and planet."

Of these protected regions, less than a fifth (18%) has even been checked for effective management. Authors were concerned that they are concentrated in certain ecosystems or regions, with a third of key biodiversity lacking any coverage at all.

Tom Oliver, Professor of Applied Ecology at Reading University said we needed to ensure these areas were "not just lines on a map".

"We can't just say 'ok we've protected some areas' and go about a business-as-usual lifestyle."

"These protected areas are not hermetically sealed," he told Sky News. "Activities outside affect what happens inside them."

For example, intensive farming nearby can release nitrogen and ammonia or species might be unable to enter or leave conservation zones.

"Biodiversity provides range of things we need," he said. "Not just a stable climate but bees to fertilise crops, wildlife for our mental health."

He said our "every day actions are impacting systems", such as the provenance of palm oil in food we buy, whether our food is organic or the way we travel.

The target, known as Aichi 11, was one of twenty targets set in 2010 at the UN Biodiversity Conference (CBD COP15). The summit is to biodiversity what the COP negotiations are to climate change: the most important meeting of global leaders. None of the 2010 targets have been met in full.

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