An international team of conservation experts have concluded that allocating between 45 to 76 billion dollars annually could help adequately manage protected areas. Currently, only one in four is well managed.
While that sum sounds high, it is equivalent to just 2.5 per cent of the global annual military expenditure, explain experts from the Wildlife Conservation Society, the University of Queensland, and the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) in advance of the IUCN World Parks Congress 2014, a once-in-a-decade global forum on protected areas opening this week in Sydney, Australia.
Many threatened species, such as the Asian elephant, the tiger, and all rhinoceros species, as well as numerous plants, reptiles and amphibians, survive thanks to protected areas. Well-managed marine protected areas contain more than five times the total large fish biomass and 14 times the shark biomass compared with fished areas.
As the experts warn, however, the vast majority of existing protected areas do not have sufficient resources to be effective, while growing threats from climate change and the escalating poaching crisis place additional pressures on protected areas globally.
“Some of the most iconic protected areas, such as Ecuador’s Galapagos National Park, are undergoing significant degradation, partly due to an inability to manage them effectively,” says Professor Marc Hockings of The University of Queensland, co-author of the study and member of the IUCN WCPA.
The paper also highlights an alarming increase in governments – in both developing and developed countries – backtracking on their commitments through funding cuts and changes in policy.
For example, recent cuts to the Parks Canada budget have reduced conservation spending by 15 per cent, while the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary in Oman was removed from the World Heritage List after the government reduced the size of the reserve by 90 per cent to allow for oil and gas extraction.
In addition to conserving biodiversity, protected areas sustain a large proportion of the world’s poorest people by providing them with food, water, shelter and medicine. They also play a key part in climate change mitigation and adaptation and bolster national economies through tourism revenues.
In Rwanda, for example, tourism revenue from visits to see mountain gorillas inside Volcanoes National Park is now the country’s largest source of foreign exchange, while in Australia, tourism to the reef was worth more than 4.5 billion dollars, utterly eclipsing the 43 million dollars spent by the government.