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Humanity must protect 44% of the planet if it wants to save wildlife

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The modification of terrestrial environments for human benefit must end. Earth’s biodiversity is at a tipping point and preventing its extinction requires that at least 44% of our planet – the equivalent of the space occupied by the African and American continents – is preserved or keep it as it is before human beings destroy it.

This is what a group of scientists, led by the University of Amsterdam, warns, insisting that now is the time to root out the toxic relationship that humans maintain with nature. And it is that, although today 70% of the terrestrial space is virgin, it is estimated that the transformation of the land is not only going to grow in the coming decades, but it is accelerating by leaps and bounds.

In fact, according to this research group, in just eight years (in 2030) intensive human uses could wipe out 1.3 million square kilometers of land, an area much larger than that occupied by South Africa. “It would be devastating for wildlife,” says ecologist James Allan, lead author of this article. This means that in less than a decade, 2% of the total area that experts advocate protecting, amounting to 64 million square kilometers, would be wiped out.

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More than 1.8 billion people live on those same lands whose protection is claimed.Therefore, in the eyes of the researchers, “it is essential” to develop responses that promote “autonomy, self-determination, equity and sustainable management to safeguard biodiversity.”

The planned 30% is not enough

With this work, the scientists want to lay the foundations for the future “conservation plan for the planet”, which is one of the lines of action that the countries are discussing today. His mention of the action plans is not trivial, given that in the latest discussions that have taken place in the European Union to set the objectives for 2030, there is talk of conserving 30% of the planet through the figure of protected areas. “It’s a big step in the right direction, but targets need to be more ambitious”, highlights the conservation specialist Kendall Jones, who has also participated in the article.

A decade ago, the conservation of natural spaces reached the political agenda through the Aichi Biodiversity Goals, set by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. At that time, countries set a clear goal: at least 17% of land areas had to be conserved. They would do so through the world system of protected areas (PA) or other types of figures that would improve both the state of biodiversity and ecosystems. Scientists now regret that the agreement had not been more ambitious. “It is clear that not enough to stop species decline and avert crisis”, specifies Jones.

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The biodiversity of the planet is at stake, and this last article can serve to lay the foundations for a correct roadmap. For this reason, scientists consider it “crucial” to establish conservation actions that promote both the autonomy and self-determination of the inhabitants of these lands and allow maintaining the ecological integrity of ecosystems, and that is not only based on qualifying a place as protected area.

“We have many effective conservation tools” ranging from empowering indigenous peoples to learn how to manage their natural environment to putting limits on deforestation, and of course “declaring protected areas”.

Reference study: https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.abl9127

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Environment section contact: crisisclimatica@prensaiberica.es

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