Protected Areas and Indigenous Territories in the Amazon region: a safety net for biodiversity and human beings | WWF

Protected Areas and Indigenous Territories in the Amazon region: a safety net for biodiversity and human beings

Posted on 12 November 2014    
Augusto fall, Juruena National Park, Brazil
© Zig Koch
(Sydney, Australia, 12 Nov 2014) - The Amazon is one of the most important natural regions on Earth, being number 1 in biodiversity and providing critical ecosystem services such as climate and water regulation, among others. This is possible because the Amazon is an ecological unit functioning in an integrated and interdependent way. However, the Amazon ecological system is being threatened by increasing pressure from several fronts and development projects and losing its ability to maintain the provision of ecosystem services. The protected natural areas (PAs), together with indigenous territories (ITs), are the most important defence mechanisms for biodiversity and sustainable ecosystem management, forming a living safety net for human beings too.

To discuss them, WWF Living Amazon Initiative will be launching a report this Friday (14Nov), at the World Park Congress (Sydney, Australia), called State of the Amazon: Ecological Representation, Protected Areas and Indigenous Territories, available in English for download.

The report is an extensive view of the Amazon biome as a whole and shows the importance of protected areas (PAs) and indigenous territories (ITs) for a more integrated vision of sustainable development, in which a nature conservation agenda plays an important role for countries´ development plans and economic policies.

Ecological representation
Advancing the studies on number and spatial distribution of Protected Areas and Indigenous territories in the Amazon region, shared by nine countries in South America (Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, Venezuela and France through the overseas territory of French Guiana), this report presents an analysis on ecological representation and the current situation of the Amazon in the light of the global conservation targets.

The Amazon ecological unit is made up of many different ecosystem types. As it stands now, the Amazon has good protected areas coverage, but it is insufficiently balanced across ecoregions, landscapes and ‘aquascapes’.

“The ecological importance of the Amazon obliges us to be more ambitious in terms of ecological representation, not only including all biological diversity but aiming to ensure that nature protected areas cover 30% with the other elements of the global 2020 biodiversity (Aichi) target 11 – management effectiveness, connectivity and integration in the landscapes, and equity”, explained Claudio Maretti, leader of the WWF Living Amazon Initiative.

“Unfortunately some ecoregions, landscapes and ‘aquascapes’ are not sufficiently protected and others are strongly threatened, which means that filling the ecological conservation gaps is an immediate priority”, added Maretti.

When indigenous territories are considered, more ecoregions, landscapes and ‘aquascapes’ achieve the minimum 30% cover. This is good for conservation. Nevertheless, it is important to understand that the indigenous territories are created and managed for social and cultural purposes. We believe the indigenous peoples are interested in nature conservation to support their livelihoods and cosmovisions. However, they have the right not to follow the same rules and objectives that pertain to protected areas ones.

For Maretti, besides the urgent task of complementing the ecological representation and declaring new protected areas in the under-represented ecoregions, landscapes and ‘aquascapes’, there are other threats related to protected areas and indigenous lands that need to be addressed, such as attempts at downgrading, downsizing or degazzettement existing protected areas and indigenous territories.

“It is highly likely that by putting the Amazon ecological equilibrium at risk we will jeopordise the provision of Amazon ecosystem services to the region and the world, including the vital mitigation of global climate change”, concludes Maretti.

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