Nations protect land better than seas
With just over a year to go for countries to meet internationally agreed biodiversity protection targets, the worldâ€™s nations are showing themselves much more adept at protecting land areas than territorial seas.Â
The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is the worldâ€™s most widely endorsed environmental treaty, ratified by all nations but the USA, Somalia, Iraq, the Holy See (Vatican) and Andorra. In 2004, the 191 governments that are parties to the treaty committed themselves to ensuring that a least 10% of each of the worldâ€™s ecological regions are effectively conserved by 2010.
The Annual Report on Protected Areas: A review of Global Conservation Progress in 2007, to be officially released on Monday 6 October by the United Nations Environmental Programmeâ€™s World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC), based on the World Database of Protected Areas (www.wdpa.org), finds .many of the worldâ€™s nations are a long way behind their agreed targets.
â€œWhile progress towards achieving the 10% protected area target has been better on land, marine areas remain especially poorly protectedâ€, says Charles Besancon, the Head of the Protected Areas Programme at UNEP-WCMC.
â€œWhile 12.2% of the planetâ€™s land area is under legal protection only 5.9% of the worldâ€™s territorial seas and less than 1% of the high seas are protected.â€Â
Just under half (45%) of the worldâ€™s nations have met the 10% protected area target, but only 14% of counties have managed to meet the CBD protected area target for their territorial seas.Â
â€œWhen we take a closer look at the level of protection in individual countries and ecological regions it is clear that many of the worlds government still have a lot of work to do if they are to contribute to the achievement of the 10% targets by the agreed dates,â€ said WWFâ€™s Senior Conservation Scientist Dr. Neil Burgess
â€œCountries in North Africa and the Middle East, South Asia, and Oceania have less than 10% of their terrestrial area protected. And many Asian, African and Pacific countries have less than 2% of their territorial seas protected.â€Â
Protected areas have proved to be an effective tool for reducing deforestation, responsible for up to 20% of global CO2 emissions, protecting water supplies for huge human populations and maintaining the productivity of fisheries.Â
The UNEP-WCMC report estimates that 15% of global carbon stocks are found in protected areas, giving them a vital role in mitigating climate change.
â€œBy not living up to their commitments on protected areas, governments are putting at risk ecosystem goods and services such as climate regulation, nutrient and waste management, flood control, coastal protection, and the provision of food, freshwater, fuel, medicines, building materials, fertile soils, and breathable air,â€ said Gordon Shepherd, Director Global and Regional Policy at WWF International