Protected areas in the International Climate Initiative

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The IKI supports the expansion and networking of protected areas worldwide. Photo: Miguel Schmitter

The progressive global destruction of nature and the associated degradation and loss of biological diversity has triggered a crisis more devastating than global warming (heating). The 2019 Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services identifies the main causes being the change in land and sea use, direct exploitation, climate change, pollution and invasive species. Due to these causes, about a million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction. Currently, a total of 75 percent of land area and 66 percent of the oceans have been significantly changed by humanity. Many regions with a high diversity of species are located in emerging and developing countries, where rural and indigenous communities in particular suffer from the loss and degradation of ecosystems.

Where appropriate and socially compatible, the establishment of protected areas with sustainable, participatory management such as national parks and nature reserves is a successful solution in combating this threat. Additionally, biosphere reserves and world heritage sites are also of high nature conservation significance. Together with Other Effective area-based Conservation Measures (OECMs), they strengthen the resilience of natural habitats to climatic influences and external ecosystem changes, while, at the same time, preserve ecosystem services such as clean air and sufficient water for the local population. So-called bio-corridors, a geographical network of protected areas, intensify this positive effect.

However, insufficient funding, a shortage of human resources and a lack of capacity for participatory and quality-oriented management turn the management of protected areas into a major challenge. Frequently, only insufficient data about the areas is available to verify the immediate need for action to preserve species and ecosystems and to effectively shape conservation measures.

Protected areas in the International Climate Initiative

For many years now, the International Climate Initiative (IKI) has made protected areas one of the focal points of its work in the funding area "Conserving biological diversity". IKI projects supporting protected areas on land (terrestrial protected areas) and in the ocean and coastal regions (marine protected areas) contribute to the fulfilment of international negotiations concluded by the governments of IKI partner countries. These include the international Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the 2030 Agenda with its sustainable development goals, the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and the Convention on the Protection of Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Convention).

Whale shark

IKI projects support partner countries to establish, expand, network, consolidat and effectively manage protected areas. Therefore, it is important to involve local and indigenous communities in making conservation measures participatory and sustainable, enabling IKI projects to develop strategies for the protection and sustainable use of ecosystems and biological resources that form the basis of people's livelihoods. The application of indigenous and local knowledge and the multiplication of successful practical examples is invaluable in such initiatives. The IKI is striving not only to enlarge the areas under protection and to improve the networking of ecosystems, but to increase the quality of protection and to guarantee it in the long-term.

Project examples on protected area promotion by the IKI

The IKI project 'Protecting coastal zones in Colombia' supports the Colombian government in laying down the foundations for the designation and expansion of protected areas in marine and coastal zones in the Caribbean as well as their sustainable management. The project strengthens environmental institutions in order to identify marine areas and coastal zones as protected areas, select areas requiring priority protection and implement them.

The IKI-supported "'Central Asian Desert Initiative (CADI) – conserving winter-cold deserts in Central Asia and adapting their uses' has succeeded in establishing protected areas in the winter-cold deserts of Central Asia (Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan), which are important migration areas for birds and the last wild ungulate herds of the north, including the Saiga antelope. For the local population, the grazing grounds in the areas are crucial for local livelihoods. The unique natural habitats also absorb large amounts of carbon from the atmosphere and slow down the progressive process of desertification.

The project 'Protected areas and other area-based conservation measures at the level of local governments', which is being implemented from 2016 to 2022, promotes the recognition of municipal protected areas as an official protected area category and thus the visibility of their contribution to biodiversity and climate protection. The project increases the number of local governments in the partner countries that sustainably manage municipal protected areas. In Brazil, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia, relevant capacities are being set up in local governments and networks of conservation players are being strengthened. The learning experiences will be shared internationally, thus reaching the right circles and enabling application of the knowledge gained far beyond the project.