Sydney – A once-per-decade meeting on the state of the world’s protected natural areas ended on November 19 with a collective promise to invigorate efforts, inspire new stakeholders, and invest in marine and terrestrial parks.
WWF’s conservation experts joined other International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) member governments and organisations, as well as private sector representatives, at the World Parks Congress (WPC) to discuss protection and management of fragile habitats and ecosystems, many of which are critical to human survival.
“Across the world, millions of people rely on the services provided by the healthy ecosystems in protected areas for their food security, water supply, fresh air, climate stability and employment opportunities. Protected areas are a powerful tool to secure a healthy, diverse and productive environment, which is the foundation to any credible long-term sustainable development agenda,” said Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International.
“We are placing biodiversity and natural resources at the heart of our new national development plan,” Madagascar President Hery Rajaonarimampianina said during a WWF event in Sydney on Tuessday. “It is possible to effectively tackle poverty while preserving and sustainably using one’s natural capital. Our natural capital is one of our greatest assets: biodiversity, and the protected areas, are engines of our development.”
Since 2003, species-rich Mada-gascar has tripled the number of protected areas in the country by creating 95 new sites, and established a US$50 million conservation fund for their management.
The president pledged to expand even further the country’s marine protected area coverage, and to establish community management of coastal resources.
In total, commitments to 140 million hectares of new protected areas were made at WWF’s event, and over US$500 million in conservation funding for management of these parks was announced.
Earlier in the conference, Malaysia, part of the Coral Triangle Initiative, committed to gazette close to a million hectares of ocean in the state of Sabah by 2015.
Over 80,000 coastal and island residents of Sabah rely on fishing for their livelihoods. Included in the state’s plans is gazettement of Tun Mustapha Park, an important marine area that needs protection from overfishing, destructive fishing practices, and pollution.
Fiji, another Coral Triangle Initiative country, announced plans to increase its number of locally managed marine areas so that communities can make decisions about how best to maximise the benefits provided by their natural resources.
Fiji also intends to protect nearly a third of its coastal waters, and Gabon nearly a quarter. Marine protected areas can guard stocks from collapse by giving fish a place to grow, as well as by preventing unsustainable take levels and habitat degradation.
In a landmark terrestrial announcement, the government of Peru joined WWF and other partners to form a new alliance aimed at securing long-term funding for the country’s 76 Amazon protected areas, and at ensuring the inclusion of indigenous communities in natural area management.
Additionally on land, Bhutan said that it has doubled its protected area cover to over 50 per cent, the highest in the world.
Globally, protected areas play an essential role in reducing the carbon in the atmosphere, yet they are at risk increasingly from climate change. At the World Parks Congress, WWF presented a new Climate Adaptation Methodology for Protected Areas, known by its acronym CAMPA, which can help bolster parks’ resiliency.
WWF also joined eight other organisations in calling for natural World Heritage Sites to be no-go zones for oil, gas and mining exploration and extraction, which is a looming menace with the potential to impact many properties.
“WWF today is renewing its dedication to working with communities, governments and other partners to ensure that protected areas are well-managed, sufficiently-resourced and prot-ected from threats,” Lambertini said.
“Much stronger focus and efforts are required particularly to secure protected and sustainably-managed marine habitats, which are lagging behind despite their huge importance for biodiversity and people.
“Our planet’s extraordinary parks are a success story worthy of celebration, but much more needs to be done in order to secure them for future generations.” (Courtesy WWF)