Nature conservation efforts undermined by COVID-19 fallout

New research published by IUCN reveals that the pandemic has significantly impacted nature conservation around the globe, including job losses among protected area rangers, reduced anti-poaching patrols and environmental protection rollbacks.

Conservation efforts in Africa and Asia were most severely affected, according to a synthesis of surveys on the impacts of the pandemic on protected area operations included in the collection. More than half of protected areas in Africa reported that they were forced to halt or reduce field patrols and anti-poaching operations as well as conservation education and outreach.

A quarter of protected areas in Asia also reported that conservation activities had been reduced. In Latin and North America, Europe and Oceania most protected areas were able to maintain core operations despite closures and losses of tourism revenue.

The pandemic also affected the livelihoods of protected area rangers and their communities. A survey of rangers in more than 60 countries found that more than one in four rangers had seen their salary reduced or delayed, while 20% reported that they had lost their jobs due to COVID-19-related budget cuts. Rangers from Central America and the Caribbean, South America, Africa and Asia were more strongly affected than their peers in Europe, North America and Oceania.

To shed light on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on environmental policy, the economic stimulus packages and other relevant government policies that were implemented or advanced between January and October 2020 were analysed.

It identified some positive examples of economic recovery packages explicitly benefiting Protected and Conserved Areas (PCAs) or scaling up environmental protections; for example, eight countries in the European Union have earmarked funding to expand or better protect PCAs, including for natural capital and the circular economy. Kenya, Japan, Pakistan and New Zealand have also included nature in their stimulus packages. While 17 countries have maintained or increased their support for PCAs, 22 countries have rolled back protections in at least 64 cases in favour of unsustainable development including road construction or oil and gas extraction in areas designated for conservation.

“We cannot allow the current crisis to further jeopardize our natural environment. If we are to build a sustainable future, rollbacks of environmental protections must be avoided, and recovery measures need to be planned in a way that not only avoids negative impacts on biodiversity, but charts a more sustainable and equitable way forward,” said the lead author of the study on impacts of stimulus packages, Rachel Golden Kroner of Conservation International.

Image credit: fgmsp via Pixabay

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