Protected areas lie at the heart of global commitments intended to preserve for the benefit of present and future generations a range of goods and services essential for life on Earth: they are homes forhuman communities, natural buffers against climate change, sources of pure water and other vital ecosystem services, genetic storehouses, protection for sacred sites, and places for recreation and spiritual and physical renewal. Protected areas cover almost 12 per cent of the Earth”™s land surface and constitute one of the largest conscious changes of land use in history.
While they represent our best chance of effective in situ conservation of biological diversity, protected areas have many other demands upon them. Comprehensive and effectively managed protected area networks at national, regional and consequently at global levels are therefore critical elements in the implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
However, while we have clearly made significant progress in conserving representative terrestrial eco-systems, recent assessments indicate that conservation of marine and coastal biodiversity is woefully inadequate, with less than 1 per cent of the Earth”™s marine ecosystems protected. Other biomes, including major freshwater systems and grasslands, are also poorly represented. In addition, protected areas have to compete for limited financial resources in the allocation of national budgets; this is a difficult task, when many governments are faced with major developmental issues such as health, poverty alleviation and the provision of essential infrastructure.
Nevertheless, the key environmental services that are provided by protected areas underpin many aspects of sustainable development, and this role is increasingly recognized as we deal with a period of global environmental
change unprecedented in human history.
This publication has been compiled by the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) World Conservation Monitoring Centre, with support from the Swedish Scientific Council on Biological Diversity, IUCN- The World Conservation Union, the International Council on Mining and Metals, and Shell International Limited. It provides a synthesis of key issues relating to protected areas and biodiversity for CBD Parties and decision makers at their meeting in February 2004 in Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia, as well as to other stakeholders in planning, establishing and managing protected areas. The Seventh
Meeting of the Conference of the Parties presents a window of opportunity to further strengthen global action on protected areas in the endeavour to significantly reduce the rate of loss of biological diversity by 2010. At the same time, such actions will support a range of linked initiatives, including the World Summit on Sustainable development (WSSD) Plan of Implementation, the Millennium Development Goals and the Durban Accord and Action Plan arising from the Vth World Parks Congress held in 2003.
Hamdallah Zedan Mark Collins
Executive Secretary Director
Convention on Biological Diversity UNEP-WCMC