In February 2004, 188 countries made a huge step towards protecting the world’s biodiversity. For the first time, the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) committed to a set of tangible targets to deliver a global network of comprehensive, well-managed, and representative terrestrial and marine protected areas - with a deadline of 2010 and 2012, respectively, for their delivery. Called the Programme of Work on Protected Areas (PoWPA), this commitment is monumental event: a one-in-ten-year opportunity to ensure on-the-ground conservation action around the world.
PROTECTED AREAS ARE VITAL FOR SPECIES, HABITATS, AND PEOPLE
Protected areas are one of the most effective tools for conserving species and natural habitats. They also contribute to the livelihoods and well-being of local communities and society at large.
Over the last 130 years, over 100,000 protected areas (national parks, sanctuaries, reserves, etc) have been established, covering some 12% of the Earth’s land surface - more than India and China put together.
This is an impressive accomplishment - and has contributed enormously to the conservation of many threatened and endangered species and habitats.
Protected areas can do more than just safeguard the world's biodiversity. For example, by providing safe havens for fish to breed, marine protected areas can support the fishing industry by replenishing fish stocks. Protected forests, especially in mountain areas, help rainwater to soak into the soil and eventually reach underground aquifers - which helps prevent flooding and maintain freshwater supplies for people and agriculture. Natural habitats also provide food, fuel, building materials, especially for the world's poorest people, and help with climate regulation and nutrient and waste management. These areas - plus the myriad of plants, animals, and other species living there - also have significant cultural value to people around the world.
• The economic value of wetlands
• Serving people, saving nature
• The importance of forest protected areas to drinking water
• Marine Protected Areas - providing a future for fish and people
• Species and people - linked futures A long way to go
But despite this, several problems with the current network of protected areas mean that the world’s biodiversity and natural areas remain under threat. For example, many habitats, such as marine and freshwater areas, are not well-represented, while many protected areas are too small and isolated to conserve their habitats effectively. In addition, poor management of some protected areas is undermining conservation efforts.
What needs to be done?
Basically, governments need to declare many new protected areas as well as effectively manage existing ones and ensure connectivity between them. The good news is that under international agreements, 190 governments have committed themselves to establishing a global network of comprehensive, well-managed, and representative terrestrial and marine protected areas - with a deadline of 2010 and 2012, respectively, for their delivery.