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Only one in four protected areas is well managed

Only one in four protected areas is well managed
November 12, 2014

A fundamental change involving an increase in funding and political commitment is urgently needed to ensure that protected areas deliver their full conservation, social and economic potential, according to a just published article by opionion formers from the Wildlife Conservation Society, the University of Queensland, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA). 

Published in the international journal Nature, the paper, The Performance and Potential of Protected Areas, comes ahead of this week’s International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Parks Congress 2014.

According to the authors, allocating US$45 - $76 billion to protected areas annually – just 2.5% of the global annual military expenditure – could help adequately manage those areas, ensuring their potential contribution to the well-being of the planet is fully met.

Many threatened species, such as the Asian elephant, the tiger, and all rhinoceros species, as well as numerous plants, reptiles and amphibians, survive thanks to protected areas. Well-managed marine protected areas contain more than five times the total large fish biomass and 14 times the shark biomass compared with fished areas.

Commenting on the study, lead author Dr James Watson of the Wildlife Conservation Society and The University of Queensland explained “protected areas offer us solutions to some of today’s most pressing challenges.

“But by continuing with ‘business as usual’, we are setting them up for failure.A step-change in the way we value, fund, govern and manage those areas is neither impossible nor unrealistic and would only represent a fraction of what the world spends annually on defence.”

According to the latest data, protected areas cover around 15% of land and 3% of oceans. However, despite the significant increase in their coverage over the past century, this is still short of the global 2020 targets to protect at least 17% of land and 10% of oceans.

In addition, many ecosystems remain poorly conserved because protected areas do not always encompass the most important areas for biodiversity.

The report shows that the vast majority of existing protected areas that are well placed do not have sufficient resources to be effective, with some studies finding as few as one quarter of them are being effectively managed. Growing threats from climate change and the escalating poaching crisis place additional pressures on protected areas globally.

Study co-author says Professor Marc Hockings of The University of Queensland and member of the IUCN WCPA, states “some of the most iconic protected areas, such as Ecuador’s Galapagos National Park, are undergoing significant degradation, partly due to an inability to manage them effectively.

“(However) governments cannot be solely responsible for ensuring that protected areas fulfil their potential. We need to find new, innovative ways to fund and manage them, actively involving government, business and community groups.”

The paper also highlights an alarming increase in governments - in both developing and developed countries – backtracking on their commitments through funding cuts and changes in policy. A recent global analysis has documented 543 instances where protected areas saw their status downgraded or removed altogether.

For example, recent cuts to the Parks Canada budget have reduced conservation spending by 15%­. In Uganda, active oil exploration and development is occurring inside many protected areas, including Murchison Falls National Park. In Indonesia, in 2010, mining permits were issued inside 481,000 hectares of protected areas and in the Virgin Komi Forests in Russia, significant boundary changes have been made to reserves such as the Yugyd Va National Park to allow mining. The Arabian Oryx Sanctuary in Oman was removed from the World Heritage List after the government reduced the size of the reserve by 90% to allow for oil and gas extraction.

Nigel Dudley, co-author of the paper, from Equilibrium Research and The University of Queensland, member of the IUCN WCPA adds “there is a fundamental need for an increase in support of global protected areas, including better recognition, funding, planning and enforcement.

“It is governments’ responsibility to step up but there is also the need for the wider community to take collective responsibility for protected areas.”

Protected areas conserve biodiversity and sustain a large proportion of the world’s poorest people by providing them with food, water, shelter and medicine. They play a key part in climate change mitigation and adaptation and bolster national economies through tourism revenues. In Rwanda, for example, tourism revenue from visits to see mountain gorillas inside Volcanoes National Park is now the country’s largest source of foreign exchange, raising US$200 million annually.

In Australia, the 2012/13 budget for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is around S$50 million, while tourism to the Reef is worth more than $5.2 billion annually to the Australian economy.

IUCN Director General Julia Marton-Lefèvre concludes “the growth of the modern global protected area movement over the last 100 years is arguably the greatest conservation achievement.

“It is also increasingly important for livelihoods and global security.The key now is for countries to recognise the return on investment that protected areas offer and realise that those places are fundamental to the future of life on earth.

"This is exactly what we hope to achieve at the upcoming IUCN World Parks Congress.”

Effective management of protected areas, the threats they face and the solutions they offer to today’s global challenges will be discussed at the IUCN World Parks Congress taking place in Sydney from 12th to 19th November 2014.

For more information check the diary entry in the Australasian Leisure Management industry calendar

31st October 2014 - SYDNEY PREPARES FOR ONCE IN A DECADE WORLD PARKS CONGRESS 

5th December 2013 - SYDNEY TO HOST IUCN WORLD PARKS CONGRESS IN 2014 

19th September 2013 - PATA ADVOCATES SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT OF THE VISITOR ECONOMY 

13th July 2013 - CAMBODIA RECEIVES 1.79 MILLION FOREIGN TOURISTS IN 2013  

2nd June 2012 - UNESCO REPORT SLAMS GREAT BARRIER REEF MANAGEMENT

17th January 2012 - ASEAN TOURISM FORUM HIGHLIGHTS REGION’S PUSH FOR FURTHER INTEGRATION


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We hope that you value the news that we publish so while you're here can we ask for your support?

The news we publish at www.ausleisure.com.au is independent, credible (we hope) and free for you to access, with no pay walls and no annoying pop-up ads.

However, as an independent publisher, can we ask for you to support us by subscribing to the printed Australasian Leisure Management magazine - if you don't already do so.

Published bi-monthly since 1997, the printed Australasian Leisure Management differs from this website in that it publishes longer, in-depth and analytical features covering aquatics, attractions, entertainment, events, fitness, parks, recreation, sport, tourism and venues management.

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