Author Archives: lburton

The Green List

The Green List of protected areas puts a positive spin on conservation, contrasting the Red List, which is an enormously lengthy and depressing list of threatened species throughout the world. (For example, the Red List identifies 4635 species listed as critically endangered.)  The Green List, while sadly not nearly as long, identifies well managed protected areas.  Its goal is to “celebrate the success of effective protected areas” and encourage other parks to reach the same standards.

The list is made up of 24 sites in 8 countries.  China, France, Korea and Columbia top the list with at least three areas each.  Notably none are in North America, but just as notably, none are in South America besides Columbia, Africa besides Kenya, or a huge expanse of land between Italy and Eastern China.  Many are national parks, but some are reserves or natural areas.  In Kenya, Ol Pejeta and Lewa are privately owned conservancies, which poses some interesting questions about the most effective management style of natural areas.

So what is required to be on the Green List?  The answer is not readily available on IUCN’s website, but further digging revealed the following five criteria:

  1. Values stated, objectives declared and being met
  2. Protected area legally defined, boundaries clear and secure
  3. Management capacity, policies and actions to achieve objectives
  4. Governance, participation, equity and benefits fulfill standards
  5. Visitor management and communication meet standards

It also appears as though the Green List, like many certification programs, requires an application process.  So did those that didn’t make the cut simply not apply?  Granted, the Green List is a newly revealed list that will continue to grow.  The IUCN is next looking at protected areas in Croatia, North Africa, Micronesia and Mexico.  The idea behind the Green List is to reward effective protected areas with a hopeful increase in tourism.  Most of these protected areas I have never heard of and would not be at the top of my list were I to visit a country.  But now they might be.  Conservancies in Kenya are far less visited than National Parks, but maybe now more people will visit Ol Pejeta.  I certainly will.

Technology, conservation and armchair travel

NASA is at the World Parks Congress promoting a new book and Google is swimming around Sydney Harbor taking pictures.  It seems that these are just two examples of technology driven initiatives to connect people with nature.

NASA’s new book is made explicitly to commemorate the World Parks Congress with satellite images of some of the world’s protected areas.  Naturally, the images are stunning.  The book, appropriately titled “Sanctuary,” aims to deliver a new perspective on parks and also highlight the uses of satellite imaging in conservation efforts.  It makes sense.  The stark contrast between developed and protected areas stresses just how much we convert the land unless it is explicitly within park boundaries.  Maybe these images are enough to inspire support for conservation.  The image of Earth from space sparked the green revolution, after all.

Google has maintained a steady presence at the congress, possibly just to remind you that Google is everywhere, but also to promote the benefits of technology and mapping.  Their new underwater streetview aims to connect people stuck at home with fantastical places around the world, such as the Great Barrier Reef.  The goal is to increase awareness of fragile marine ecosystems, but the project hopes to also help researchers to monitor changes to coral reefs and other systems.

Partnering with SkyTruth and Oceana, Google is also involved with Global Fishing Watch, a new technology being used to monitor illegal fishing.  Using satellite images, the project tracks fishing fleets around the world and can determine whether or not vessels are operating within marine protected areas, giving the fishing industry more transparency.

Finally, The Map of Life, supported by Google Earth, is an ambitious project that maps almost a million species to their current geographies.  For the World Parks Congress, they are announcing a new resource for monitoring species and measuring the effectiveness of protected areas in species conservation.

Whether for science, aesthetics or just because they can, some exciting things are happening in the world of mapping that can be of great benefit to conservationists, and if you’re still reading this I urge you to stop immediately and go read this instead.