Parks, people, planet: inspiring solutions

With more than 6.000 participants from 170 countries the VI World Park Congress, Sydney 2004 has finalized. The event was the opportunity to encourage the WPC participants try to achieve the Aichi biodiversity targets, that says: By 2020, at least 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water, and 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services, are conserved through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, and integrated into the wider landscapes and seascapes.

First of all, the number of Protected areas has increased during the last years, as the number of communities settled around them. In addition of this, we have to consider that communities depend of the natural resources to overcome poverty and increase their economic development.

The increase of Protected areas is enough to achieve the Aichi target? . Well, the latest available information shows that, protected areas cover around 12.5% of land and 3% of oceans. These are no optimistic rates. We could take these percentages as an indicator the lack of compromise that several countries demonstrate until now regarding this compromise or we could analyze in detail this situation. A new approach about Protected areas says: Protected areas are now created not only to conserve iconic landscapes and seascapes and to provide habitat for endangered wildlife, but also to contribute to the livelihood of local communities, to bolster national economies through tourism revenues, to replenish fisheries and to play a key part in the mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change, among many other functions (Watson, J., et al. 2014).

The only way to achieve these objectives is through an effective of the Protected areas. However, preserve natural resources and be effective in the mission require important funds. According a recent research by WWF and Credit Suisse has shown that investment in biodiversity conservation needs to be around $200- $300 billion globally per year, 20-30 times the current level. The only way to ensure that Protected areas hold the ecosystems and species into of them is convincing the decision makers that in addition of the not tangible value the Protected areas, healthy and biodiversity ecosystem offer economic benefits to countries and their people (The solution of this dilemma could be recognizing “nature capital” as a financial tool in favor to the Protected areas).

The time that we have for do something in favor to the conservation and restoration of the natural resources could be not enough, is necessary the diversification of the financial sources in favor of the administration the Protected areas. It is time that the nature advocates talk the same language that decision makers understood: money.

They have to understand that the cost of return (opportunity cost) on investment that well managed protected areas provide by conserving natural heritage and increasing the social and economic wellbeing of their citizens. Countries need to start quantifying the services provided by protected areas and recognizing the costs of protected-area degradation it should be. Estimations of the annual cost of adequately managing an expanded network of marine and terrestrial protected areas range from $45 billion to $76 billion, the lower of which is just 2.5% of the global military expenditure.

Finally, we have to recognize that protected areas are essential to the future of life on our planet. The WPC provided us a good new in this context the creation of the Green List of Protected Areas as an attempt to encourage the best-practice examples of equitable governance into them.

Santiago G.

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