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Protected areas, a mainstay of biodiversity conservation

They safeguard nature and cultural resources, improve livelihoods and boost sustainable development

On September 25, 2015, work leaders established, as part of a new sustainable development agenda (Sustainable Development Goals - SDG), a set of global goals to protect the planet, eradicate poverty and ensure prosperity for all. The IUCN Programme 2017-2020 follows and integrate initiatives generated by agreements such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement. In addition, this program breaks the widespread conception that global challenges - such as economic growth and climate change - must be addressed separately.

In this sense, protected areas (national parks, wilderness areas, etc.) are a pillar of biodiversity conservation, while contributing to people's livelihoods, particularly at the local level. Protected areas are at the center of efforts to conserve nature and ecosystem services: food, clean water supply and protection against climatic events. 

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) defines these areas as "A clearly defined geographical space, recognized, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values."

Many protected areas are important for the sustainable development of local communities, especially for indigenous peoples, whose survival sometimes depends on the development of economic activities such as tourism within these areas. 

The IUCN Red List of Ecosystems (RLE) can be of great value to help prioritize ecosystem management and restoration, reform resource use practices, and reward good and better ecosystem management. In this sense, systematic and national assessments allow comparing, classifying and prioritizing ecosystems types in diversity planning and management.

A recent study identified that the red lists of ecosystems also inform priorities for the expansion of protected areas, such is the case of South Africa, where the RLE assessment data are used as inputs to make decisions regarding increasing the representation of threatened ecosystems within protected areas. Similarly, Colombia is committed to increase the extension of its protected areas network from 12% to 17% of the country’s land area by 2020, and a new RLE assessment will inform the designation of new protected areas through the identification of unprotected threatened ecosystems.

In short, supporting countries and communities to designate and manage protected area systems is one of IUCN's main areas of expertise. This has been a key focus of IUCN's work attention. The effectively managed protected area systems have been recognized as critical instruments to achieve the objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Sustainable Development Goals.


Written by: Elías José Martínez Cedeño

Style and format: Lila García

Translation: Antonieta Parilli

Provita Sep 04, 2019


IUCN Red List of Ecosystems


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