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Protected Areas Have a Lot of Benefits. Here’s How to Maximize Them.

Effectively managed protected areas are a critical tool for safeguarding biodiversity, maintaining ecosystem balance, and providing many other benefits to wildlife and human health. 

The Campaign for Nature’s goal to protect 30 percent of Earth’s land and ocean is rooted in the benefits that protected areas provide for biodiversity and the associated ecosystem services.

Effectively managed protected areas are a critical tool for safeguarding biodiversity, maintaining ecosystem balance, preserving important habitats, building resilience to climate change, providing global food security, maintaining water quality, conserving natural resources, driving economic success, curbing the spread of diseases and pests, and providing many other benefits to wildlife and human health. 

Recent research shows that globally, species richness is 10.6 percent higher and abundance 14.5 percent higher in samples taken inside protected areas compared with samples taken outside. A recent analysis focusing specifically on Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), found that in MPAs with the highest level of protection (i.e., no-take marine reserves, which are protected areas that do not allow any fishing, mining, drilling or other extractive activities), whole fish biomass was on average 670 percent greater than in adjacent unprotected areas and 343 percent greater than in partially protected areas. This sheds light on an important point central to the Campaign for Nature’s goals: Protecting just any 30 percent of the planet is not enough. 

Protecting an area without regard for its ecological value or how it is managed does not serve the overall goal of achieving a planet in balance that optimizes biodiversity and the health and well-being of ecosystems, wildlife, and humanity. 

In order to reap the greatest benefits from protected areas for our future and that of the planet, we need to:

  • protect areas that are most important for biodiversity, including intact ecosystems (natural environments with no signs of significant human activity); 
  • ensure that conservation supports land connectivity wherever possible; 
  • pursue conservation in various regions to ensure that the global system of protected areas is representative of our planet’s diverse nature and ecosystems; 
  • support indigenous peoples’ land rights and promote indigenous-led conservation; and,
  • increase funding for conservation and protected area management and transition toward reliable long-term funding sources.

Nations will need to work in partnership with indigenous peoples and local communities to determine what conservation efforts are best suited to their land- and seascapes, and wildlife. Governments will also need to work across boundaries to ensure effective transboundary conservation measures.

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