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Conserving half the Earth for nature

A new scientific paper calls for a bold global deal for nature, similar to the Paris Climate Deal, in which 50% of land is conserved for nature.


The ‘An Ecoregion-based Approach to Protecting Half the Terrestrial Realm’ paper was written by an international group of conservation scientists – including UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre’s Head of Science Neil Burgess and Yara Shennan-Farpon. It was published in the high-impact journal Bioscience on 14 April.


The ground-breaking study shows that the ambition of saving half of the planet for nature can be achieved through increased habitat protection and restoration, improved conservation strategies and empowerment of local and indigenous communities.


Some 846 unique global communities of animals and plants, or ecoregions – transcending national boundaries - were considered in the study. Of these, only 98 already have half of their area conserved; including areas of the Amazon rainforest and parts of Alaska. Significantly, a further 313 are within reach of achieving half-conserved status.


Conservation doesn’t have to occur at the expense of local communities and the paper highlights examples from Namibia, Nepal and Bhutan where local communities are taking ownership of, and benefitting from, conservation and habitat management.


“Decision makers need the best possible evidence to make the right decisions for people and the planet,” said Professor Neil Burgess, co-author of the paper.  “In the current global debate on the best way to create a sustainable future, such as E.O. Wilson’s Half Earth concept, this quantitative analysis is a huge step forwards,” he notes.


“Analyses such as the ecoregion-based approach provide decision-makers with the science to design options and strategies for the implementation of global conservation goals and it could help governments to further international collaboration in this regard,” said Corli Pretorius, Deputy Director of UN Environment’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre.


Ecosystem management is one of UN Environment’s main work areas. Work to protect biodiversity is carried out in the Balkans, for the Carpathian mountains, the Caspian Sea, Lake Baikal and under the Poverty and Environment Initiative for example.


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