Achieving the targets of global conventions

A special issue of Conservation Letters

2. DPoint #100 high res pdf (for stories)_Page_16_Image_0008In December 2016, Conservation Letters released its first special issue with the theme of ‘Achieving the targets of global biodiversity conventions’. The issue was spearheaded by members of CEED and the Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science (CBCS), specifically Moreno Di Marco, James Watson, Oscar Venter, and Hugh Possingham in collaboration with the journal’s Editor-in-Chief, Eddie Game.

This unique issue includes 13 articles authored by a diverse group of conservation scientists from NGOs and universities, with input from representatives from the private and government sector. The unifying theme underpinning this issue focuses on the problems, progress and potential of national and international conservation targets at halting biodiversity loss on the land and in the sea. The release of the special issue is particularly timely given the approaching 2020 deadline to achieve the Aichi Targets (as set out in the Convention on Biological Diversity).

The entire special issue is open access meaning individual articles or the whole issue can be downloaded for free. Of the 13 contributed papers, 6 feature work by CEED and CBCS members, which we highlight below.

The issue opens by focusing on the essential role of conservation targets for coordinating global conservation efforts. Moreno Di Marco and colleagues (Di Marco et al, 2016) stress the need to determine what is ‘sufficient’ in conservation terms (ie, adequate levels of conservation inputs, outputs, and outcomes necessary for the protection of biodiversity), and how to be ‘efficient’ in achieving it (ie, how much, where, and when to best spend limited resources and how to monitor progress).

These sentiments are echoed by Stuart Butchart and colleagues (Butchart et al, 2016) who identified four key problems with the current Aichi Targets: ambiguity, unquantifiability, complexity and redundancy. They argue that these shortfalls make the targets difficult to operationalise, and provide guidelines on how more consistent and streamlined interpretation can be ensured in future targets.

An up-to-date assessment of trends in habitat protection versus habitat conversion is presented by James Watson and colleagues (Watson et al, 2016). It highlights the scale of the issue, with 447 ecoregions still exhibiting high conversion-to-protection ratios and 41 ‘crisis ecoregions’ that require urgent action due to very low protected area coverage coupled with high recent habitat conversion rates. With decreasing habitat availability and increasing – but varying – rates of habitat loss, there is a clear need to reconcile trade-offs in conservation targets and actions.

An analysis of the potential trade-off between protected area expansion and the equality of habitat representation within protected areas (both key elements of Aichi Target 11) by Caitlin Kuempel and colleagues (Kuempel et al, 2016) found that, while the equality of protection has been generally increasing, these changes have likely been by chance rather than through the explicit consideration of representation targets in protected area expansion. The ambiguity and unquantifiability of ‘representation’ within Aichi Target 11 likely contributes to this implementation gap.

Tal Polak and colleagues (Polak et al, 2016) provide an approach that maximises representation of both ecosystems (Aichi Target 11) and threatened species (Aichi Target 12) to ensure each unique habitat type or species is included within Australia’s protected area network under financial and geographical constraints. This approach could help countries more efficiently achieve multiple targets, particularly as new goals and information arise.

Finally, there is also a paper involving two of CEED’s overseas researchers EJ Milner-Gulland and Andrew Knight on the status and trends in global ecosystem services and natural capital (Shepherd et al, 2016).

All papers in the special issue are policy oriented, focusing attention on what we can learn from previous efforts to meet global conservation targets. The hope is that this research will guide the development of a more integrated and better-informed set of global biodiversity targets in the future. These future targets are likely to play a fundamental role in supporting the UN’s Agenda for Sustainable Development through which the world’s governments have agreed to achieve ambitious social, economic, and environmental goals by 2030.

More info: Caitlin Kuempel


Special Issue: Achieving the targets of global biodiversity conventions (2016). Conservation Letters 9: 393-494.
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