Protected areas are one of the most direct, cost-effective way of simultaneously achieving societal goals of conserving biodiversity, tackling development challenges and fostering climate resilience.
However, protected areas can only deliver on these challenges under certain conditions. First, if protected areas are to contribute to sustainable development, society must invest in fully financed, effectively managed, comprehensive and well-connected protected area systems. Only then will protected areas be able to sustain the ecosystems and critical ecosystem services required to help sustain a planet of seven billion people.
Second, protected areas need to be fully integrated into development planning and production sectors. Biodiversity within protected areas can provide essential ecosystem services to society, particularly for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable, including water, food, livelihoods and climate resilience. But unless societies properly understand those benefits and embed them into sectoral and development plans, policies and practices, we will continue to have the market failures and policy failures that drive biodiversity loss.
Third, if protected areas are to help humanity adapt to climate change, then we must design and manage them deliberately, with an eye toward fostering resilience and ecosystem-based adaptation. Increased connectivity, expanded protected areas, improved management effectiveness, decreased fragmentation, and protection of climate refugia are some of the steps needed to help biodiversity adapt, and continue to provide critical ecosystem services. At the same time, we must protect the ecosystems – coral reefs, mangroves, montane forests – that help buffer humanity from climate change impacts.
Protected areas can contribute to Aichi Biodiversity Targets 5,6,11, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16, and many of these directly relate to sustainable development goals. Yet many NBSAP planners do not fully harness the full potential of protected areas in their plans. Protected areas are typically a single chapter, and planners to not describe precisely how protected areas can achieve multiple targets.
Similarly, protected areas can play a significant role in helping countries achieve sustainable development. Yet of the national sustainable development reports that have been developed to date, fewer than a dozen specifically mention protected areas.
By repositioning protected areas within NBSAPs, national sustainable development goals and plans, and in sectoral plans such as tourism, water, transportation, disaster risk reduction, agriculture and other production sectors, policy makers can ensure that protected areas are viewed not only as a strategy for conserving biodiversity, but also as a strategy for development.
For NBSAPs, the specific element is to position protected areas at the core of NBSAPs instead of on the periphery. Given their role in simultaneously achieving ecological, social and economic goals, as well as efficiently and effectively achieving multiple Aichi Biodiversity Targets, protected areas should feature prominently within NBSAPs as an organizing framework, rather than as an isolated section or chapter. Planners should link protected area goals, (e.g., expansion, creation, connectivity) more explicitly to social and economic goals and other Aichi Biodiversity Targets, including strengthening national food and water security; safeguarding genetic resources for wild crop relatives; securing sustainable livelihoods; and strengthening resilience to floods, droughts, storms and natural disasters.
Planners involved in national development planning can instead show how protected areas can enhance national food and water security, secure employment and livelihoods, buffer vulnerable communities from disasters, foster health populations, reduce border-related conflicts by fully integrating protected areas as a core component of the national sustainable development plans.
Specific elements of this integration include integrating protected areas into national food security plans, water security plans, disaster risk reduction plans.
Planners must understand the value of ecosystem services provided by protected areas if they are to fully incorporate these values into development and sectoral plans. Valuation assessments and natural capital accounting can help make the case to key ministries, such as ministry of finance, that protected areas are an efficient investment vehicle.
For more detail on key lessons in integrating protected areas into sectoral and development planning, see Protected Areas for the 21st Century (http://nbsapforum.net/#read-resource/736); Making Protected Areas Relevant (http://nbsapforum.net/#read-resource/451); The Three New R’s for Protected Areas: Repurpose, Reposition and Reinvest (http://nbsapforum.net/#read-resource/1035).
This best practice does not lend itself to specific impacts and outcomes – these are determined on a case by case basis within each country.