Arguments for protection: livelihoods

Protection of species and natural areas can help maintain existing livelihoods, as well as create new livelihood opportunities.
Hundreds of millions of people around the world rely on natural resources for their livelihoods. For example, an estimated 250 million people in developing countries directly depend on small-scale fisheries for food and income.

Environmental goods and services provided by natural habitats - like clean water, food, fibres, building materials, medicines, and energy - are also extremely important for meeting the subsistence needs of the world’s poorest people. In India alone, an estimated 50 million people are directly dependent on forests for their subsistence.

Well-managed protected areas have a clear role to play in protecting the species and ecosystems that support these livelihoods.

Protected areas can also sometimes bring alternative livelihood opportunities, for example through sustainable tourism or conservation work.

This can be especially important to poor rural and coastal communities with minimal options for formal employment. It can also be extremely cost effective. For example, maintenance of Costa Rica’s national parks costs about US$12 million each year; in 1991 these parks generated foreign exchange of more than US$330 million from some 500,000 overseas visitors.
 / ©: WWF-Canon / Jason RUBENS
An ecotourism venture based around protected marine turtles nesting in Costa Rica's Tortuguero National Park - including green turtles (pictured) - has dramatically boosted local employment and opportunities, and brought better education, health, and sanitation facilities to Tortuguero village. The turtles now generate annual tourism revenues of nearly US$7 million.
© WWF-Canon / Jason RUBENS

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