Committee for Nature Conservation Polish Academy of Sciences
Information
  • Date submitted: 31 Oct 2011
  • Stakeholder type: Major Group
  • Name: Committee for Nature Conservation Polish Academy of Sciences
  • Submission Document: Download
Keywords: Chemicals (1 hits),

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Concept of Continental and Oceanic Protected Areas as a Key to Sustainable Development

The key to the conservation of nature on the global scale is the protection of two fundamental elements: water, as a carrier of the entire life on the Earth, and large earth?s surface areas, as measurable values indispensable to the existence of all forms of life.

Abstract

Thus far, existing system of nature conservation, which is mainly based on national parks and reserves, is insufficient. These traditional forms protecting wildlife, fresh and saline waters, geological formations and natural landscapes cover too small earth?s surface areas on the global scale. Human pressure on ecosystems, which is constantly growing and is strictly connected with economic expansion and population growth, forces us to search for different, bold and far-reaching solutions. Thus, the author proposes a new concept, which divides the world into two parts: economic and protected zones. The latter ones would be in the form of Continental and Oceanic Protected Areas (CPAs and OPAs).

Background

Looking back on the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, it becomes obvious that in reality the conference did not bring about any clear trends in stopping or reversal of the destruction of wildlife and natural resources. This was only confirmed by the next conference in Johannesburg in 2002 and biodiversity conference in Nagoya in 2010. Although the documents, which were adopted in Rio de Janeiro, like Global Action program-Agenda 21, Declaration on Sustainable Development of Forests, Framework Convention on Climate Change, and Convention on Biodiversity, set new directions of thinking and actions in nature conservation, they did not halt the processes of forests and freshwater resources destruction, marine water pollution, or extinction of plant and animal species or whole ecosystems. The main reasons behind these negative environmental changes are: rapid population growth, observed predominantly in countries of high biodiversity (e.g. India, Philippines, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico); improper land use, causing strong soil erosion (e.g. Madagascar, Haiti, Ethiopia); accelerated economic growth, which results in taking huge areas of land for the urban development with its industrial infrastructure and hydraulic engineering (e.g. China, USA); and military conflicts, creating almost impossible conditions for organized wildlife conservation (e.g. Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan). Another dangerous factor, which should be taken into consideration, is pollution of the natural environment by Chemicals and toxic wastes of anthropogenic origins, which have destructive effects on soil, atmosphere, fresh and marine waters. Uneconomical usage of nature resources such as overexploitation of forests, grasslands, freshwater reserves and soils, is the main cause of droughts, fires, floods, mudslides and hunger in many places all over the world. Traditional national parks and wildlife reserves, which since 19th century have been established for the conservation of nature, have their total surface area too small in relation to whole continents and oceans to make an effective impact on sustaining the ecological balance of our planet in the future.

Biosphere reserves created within the framework of the UNESCO Program ?Man and the Biosphere? can be still perceived as rather an experimental program in the matter of man?s coexistence with nature than an effective tool for environmental protection.

The NATURA 2000 network of protected areas, which has been recently developed within the European Union, may function relatively well in transformed and mostly synanthropic conditions of Western Europe. However, it would be difficult to implement this idea in vast areas of wilderness in Eastern Europe, where, as in the case of Russia, the nature reserves called ?Zapovednik? works extremely well. In recent years, two very interesting initiatives came into existence such as Global 200 and Biodiversity Hotspots. The Global 200 pointed out the worthiest ecoregions of our planet, which deserve protection on account of their different natural values.

While Biodiversity Hotspots catalogues areas of the greatest concentration of biodiversity in the world. However, both above mentioned initiatives focus mainly on biodiversity conservation. The presented here concept of Continental and Oceanic Protected Areas is novel in this respect that not only shows where but also how to protect nature on the global scale. Nature conservation is perceived here in context of its interaction with human economic activities and settlement, thus in the wider dimension than above mentioned initiatives. It involves the regeneration of nature?s values, especially freshwater resources, which were destroyed by long-lasting human activities, on the huge surface areas of continents by using native species preserved in refugia. It places emphasis on the global protection of areas, which are strategically important for freshwater sources and soils. It proposes concrete legal solutions in two dimensions: spatial structure and international legislation of CPA and OPA.

Concept of Continental and Oceanic Protected Areas

Till now, the protection of areas, which are strategic sources of freshwater such as mountains and zones around watersheds, has not been legally regulated on the global scale and this is one of the main goals of the presented here idea.

The above issues were not dealt with in the UN Convention to Combat Desertification of 1994. The Ramsar Convention did not solve problems concerning the protection of wetlands, as being reservoirs of water, due to the limited territorial range of this Convention and its main focus on only one subject- avifauna protection. Equally important element, which should be protected on the global scale, is soil. It constitutes the base of the natural cycle of life in all ecosystems. Soil is the basis for feeding of mankind and it accumulates more carbon than atmosphere and forests taken together.

Therefore, the author?s concept proposes a division of world?s areas into economic and protected parts. Protected zones such as: Continental Protected Areas- will be established to protect nature and especially freshwater resources and Oceanic Protected Areas- will be established to protect the richest and the most interesting primeval marine ecosystems. This idea includes all continents and the World Ocean, and it aims at creating a legally binding, unified global network of vast areas protecting nature with all its aspects in the future.

Inherent in this vision is the assumption that the nature and its resources can be effectively protected only within vast continental and oceanic areas.

Continental Protected Areas (CPAs) constitute a new large-scale form of nature conservation with strictly defined boundaries. Depending on the adopted variants, CPAs can comprise 25-40% of the total area of continents and in the case of Antarctica even the whole continent. The proposed here value of 40% should be accepted as optimal and crucial to provide 9 billion people with sufficient amount of freshwater, for maintenance and regeneration of soil, and to improve climate conditions in the 21st century.

As a priority, CPAs would encompass mountains, zones around watersheds and large catchment areas with wetlands such as to mention a few: the Himalayas, the Tibetan Plateau, Pamir Mountains, Tien Shan, Caucasus, the Sikhote-Alin with the Amur Basin, the Valdai Hills, Dinaric Alps, the Atlas Mountains, the Rwenzori Mountains, the Rocky Mountains, Pacific Coast Ranges, the Sierra Nevada (U.S.), the Appalachians, Andes, Guiana Shield, the Mato Grosso Plateau, the Australian Alps, Amazon Lowlands, Congo Basin, Pantanal, basins of lakes e.g. Superior, Tanganyika, Malawi, Baikal, and Hudson Bay Lowlands, West Siberian Plain with their large peat deposits. They are sparsely populated areas with relatively well-preserved wildlife and extensive woodlands or especially important for the protection of pure freshwater resources.

Furthermore, vulnerable ecosystems with high biodiversity such as grasslands (steppe, savanna), little damaged arid areas like large part of Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Patagonia, Gran Chaco, Eastern and Southern Africa as well as large continental islands with their unique wildlife like New Guinea, Borneo, Celebes, Tasmania, Madagascar, and finally, large river deltas, strategically situated and adjacent to protected sea marine coasts of outstanding natural beauty should also be subjects to special protection within the framework of CPAs.

CPAs have to encompass unique, native or ethnic human cultures, which have preserved their traditional way of living up to now, with protection-e.g. Kalahari Bushmen, Pigmies from Central Africa, Amazonian tribes, Australian Aborigines, Papua New Guinea?s tribes, Asia?s nomads, the Inuit.

It is also very important to support the traditional agriculture and reforestation. Controversial projects of building dams such as on the Mekong, Salween, Omo and Xingu rivers pose the threat of destruction to whole ecosystems and traditional ways of living of existing there cultures. However, the primacy of the conservation of nature and its resources should be applied over any economic activities within all CPAs. The new building industry ought to be restricted here to already existing settlement units to prevent annexation of further surface areas and to protect the natural landscapes.

It is also necessary to provide wild animals with access to watering places and free migrations. It should be stressed that exploitation of non-renewable ground waters need to be restricted or forbidden within the all CPAs (especially in desert areas in North Africa and Arabian peninsula). The same concerns industrial exploitation of freshwater from mountain glaciers and ice sheets, which are endangered in a natural way by global warming e.g. Greenland. Considering their goals, CPAs should cover from thousands to millions of square kilometers and, if possible, may include whole physical & geographical units.

Major urban, industrialized and mining areas located within CPAs will not constitute their parts but will remain as internal enclaves with strictly defined boundaries and receive a special economic status of so called ?Industrial Urban Zones.

Fig.1. The scheme of the Continental Protected Area CPA
[UNDESA/DSD: Please download the original document to view fig.1]

Another important matter is the far-reaching effect of CPAs on adjacent agricultural, urban and industrial areas, especially in the warm climate zones. CPAs will not only provide them with pure drinking water and water for industrial purposes but also, undoubtedly, have an influence on improvement of climatic conditions especially on the regional scale through its softening, increasing of rainfalls in arid areas and decreasing of air pollution (e.g. Central and South-West Asia, Maghreb, Sahel). This will be possible due to maintaining and to gradual large-scale enlargement of afforested surfaces and the reconstruction of other native vegetations within CPAs.

The main goal of CPAs establishment, in sparsely populated polar-boreal and equatorial regions, is a conservation of nature on a MEGA scale, and also reparation of the environmental damages caused by human activities. In the future, surface waters of boreal terrains would become freshwater reserves for people living in the dry tropical zones. Additionally, protection of vast boreal peat bogs will prevent emission of large amount of methane, which is one of the most important greenhouse gases. Setting-up of CPAs in the moderate and the tropics zones, which are the human domain for millennia, consists in utilizing often the last bastions of nature to restore gradually their native vegetation both forest and graminaceous in ecologically suitable regions all over the particular CPA . It would give a real chance to restore sources of fresh water. This, in turn, would enable the reintroduction of the native animal species into restored environment and the gradual reconstruction of the whole original ecosystems.

However, if these actions are to be effective, the nature protection must be carried out over extensive areas of whole mountain ranges such as Taurus, Mountains of Syria and Lebanon, Atlas, Zagros, Altai, Tien-Shan, Hindu Kush, Sierra Madre, Bolivian/Peruvian Andes, Serra do Espinhaço, Serra Geral, Eastern Ghats, or even more arid, like the Kunlun Mountains, Kopet Dag, Tibesti, Ahaggar, Darfur, Ennedi or the mountains of Arabian Peninsula. These actions should be first undertaken in the mountains and upland terrains characterized by a more humid climate e.g. the Himalayas, Elburs, Pontic Mountains, Annamite Mountains, or more populated Andes in Columbia and Ecuador, Mountains of Cuba and Sumatra, Western Ghates, Qinling Mountains, Nanling Mountains and Mountains in Africa: Fouta Djallon, Mitumba, Muchinga or Abyssinian Highlands, Plateaus: Adamawa, Bie, Azande and Lunda.

Long-term and long-lasting effects of these actions will be significant for the maintaining the hydrologic balance in the neighboring catchment areas of large rivers and lakes, which should be included within CPAs, e.g. the Niger Basin, the Upper Nile Basin, the Okavango with its delta, the Senegal River, the Tarim River or basins of: the Brahmaputra, the upper Uruguay River, and Lakes: Titicaca, Victoria, Tana, Bangweulu, Turkana, Chad, Urmia, Van, Balkhash, waters of Turan

Plain or wetlands of Sumatra.

The regeneration of forests and soils will bring about improvement of fresh water retention and purification through its filtration and biochemical interactions.

There are many examples illustrating interactions and interdependences between large mountain ranges and areas of intensive economic development such as: the Himalayas and Karakoram- the Indus and Ganges Lowlands; the Tibetan Plateau- China?s Eastern Lowlands; the Mountains of Kurdistan-the Mesopotamian Lowlands; the Drakensberg-eastern part of South Africa and Lesotho, the Sierra Nevada-Californian valleys; the Mantiqueira Mountains-São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro; the Great Dividing Range- the Australian east coast.

The cooperation among China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan aimed at complex protection of the Himalayas and Karakoram within CPA could bring about spectacular effects and improve not only agricultural conditions but also protect the freshwater resources in the adjacent Indo-Gangetic Plains. Such concerted international actions undertaken to establish CPAs may also address other problems: extensive farming, tourism, difficulties of rural life, freshwater fishery, and spatial planning or nature conservation sensu stricto.

Another important matter is the far-reaching effect of CPAs on adjacent agricultural, urban and industrial areas, especially in the warm climate zones. CPAs will not only provide them with pure drinking water and water for industrial purposes but also, undoubtedly, have an influence on improvement of climatic conditions especially on the regional scale through its softening, increasing of rainfalls in arid areas and decreasing of air pollution (e.g. Central and South-West Asia, Maghreb, Sahel). This will be possible due to maintaining and to gradual large-scale enlargement of afforested surfaces and the reconstruction of other native vegetations within CPAs. The main goal of CPAs establishment, in sparsely populated polar-boreal and equatorial regions, is a conservation of nature on a MEGA scale, and also reparation of the environmental damages caused by human activities. In the future, surface waters of boreal terrains would become freshwater reserves for people living in the dry tropical zones. Additionally, protection of vast boreal peat bogs will prevent emission of large amount of methane, which is one of the most important greenhouse gases. Setting-up of CPAs in the moderate and the tropics zones, which are the human domain for millennia, consists in utilizing often the last bastions of nature to restore gradually their native vegetation both forest and graminaceous in ecologically suitable regions all over the particular CPA . It would give a real chance to restore sources of fresh water. This, in turn, would enable the reintroduction of the native animal species into restored environment and the gradual reconstruction of the whole original ecosystems.

However, if these actions are to be effective, the nature protection must be carried out over extensive areas of whole mountain ranges such as Taurus, Mountains of Syria and Lebanon, Atlas, Zagros, Altai, Tien-Shan, Hindu Kush, Sierra Madre, Bolivian/Peruvian Andes, Serra do Espinhaço, Serra Geral, Eastern Ghats, or even more arid, like the Kunlun Mountains, Kopet Dag, Tibesti, Ahaggar, Darfur, Ennedi or the mountains of Arabian Peninsula. These actions should be first undertaken in the mountains and upland terrains characterized by a more humid climate e.g. the Himalayas, Elburs, Pontic Mountains, Annamite Mountains, or more populated Andes in Columbia and Ecuador, Mountains of Cuba and Sumatra, Western Ghates, Qinling Mountains, Nanling Mountains and Mountains in Africa: Fouta Djallon, Mitumba, Muchinga or Abyssinian Highlands, Plateaus: Adamawa, Bie, Azande and Lunda.

Long-term and long-lasting effects of these actions will be significant for the maintaining the hydrologic balance in the neighboring catchment areas of large rivers and lakes, which should be included within CPAs, e.g. the Niger Basin, the Upper Nile Basin, the Okavango with its delta, the Senegal River, the Tarim River or basins of: the Brahmaputra, the upper Uruguay River, and Lakes: Titicaca, Victoria, Tana, Bangweulu, Turkana, Chad, Urmia, Van, Balkhash, waters of Turan Plain or wetlands of Sumatra.

The regeneration of forests and soils will bring about improvement of fresh water retention and purification through its filtration and biochemical interactions.

There are many examples illustrating interactions and interdependences between large mountain ranges and areas of intensive economic development such as: the Himalayas and Karakoram- the Indus and Ganges Lowlands; the Tibetan Plateau- China?s Eastern Lowlands; the Mountains of Kurdistan-the Mesopotamian Lowlands; the Drakensberg-eastern part of South Africa and Lesotho, the Sierra Nevada-Californian valleys; the Mantiqueira Mountains-São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro; the Great Dividing Range- the Australian east coast.

The cooperation among China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan aimed at complex protection of the Himalayas and Karakoram within CPA could bring about spectacular effects and improve not only agricultural conditions but also protect the freshwater resources in the adjacent Indo-Gangetic Plains. Such concerted international actions undertaken to establish CPAs may also address other problems: extensive farming, tourism, difficulties of rural life, freshwater fishery, and spatial planning or nature conservation sensu stricto.

Oceanic Protected Areas (OPAs) are a consistent continuation of the idea of creating huge CPAs, which would naturally complement each other and increase effectiveness of thus formed global network. OPAs, being a new large-scale form of nature conservation with strictly defined boundaries, may encompass 20-30% of the entire World Ocean, depending on the variant adopted. The recently postulated 10% target value of marine protected areas is not enough ambitious and impossible for the realization of sustainable development for 9 billion people around 2050. OPAs would comprise first of all: seas with coral-reefs; economically important polar seas and cold sea-currents, species-rich shelf waters; seas and other parts of the ocean, not necessarily species-rich, but considered unique for other reasons: ocean trenches, oceanic and marine areas with surface and underwater volcanic activities; oceanic islands with their surrounding waters; littoral zones, especially with mangroves; waters rich with colonies of the brown algae, which form prominent ?subaqueous forests? and are one of the main producers of the Earth?s oxygen.

Adopting the above guidelines, it would be highly recommended to place the following areas under legal protection within the framework of OPAs: the whole Red Sea with large part of its coasts; most world mangrove forests; vast areas on the Western Pacific Ocean rich in coral reefs; the region of the Mozambican Canal; the unique Sargasso Sea; a part of the Caribbean Sea; the Adriatic Sea; the whole Southern Ocean around Antarctica; the Arctic Ocean, Baffin Bay and the Bering Sea; and even unique though with sparse wildlife the Black Sea. Additionally, this legal formula would encompass archipelagos of small islands or single islands with extensive marine areas around them such as the islands of Andaman and Nicobar, Socotra, New Caledonia, the Solomon Islands, the Kuril Islands, the Queen Elizabeth Islands as well as waters surrounding already protected islands of Galapagos and Aldabra.

Special protection within OPAs should be provided to seas, waters of open oceans and coastal waters along the continents which are strategic breeding sites and biology for about 70-90% of fish and other animal groups, and which play a fundamental economical role in feeding the world. Thus, it is also important to restore of mangroves and coral-reefs where it is only possible.

Particular attention should be paid to the problem of protecting long coastal zones with river-mouths, which are main migration routes of fish. The main threat for oceans? ecosystems is trawling, which not only destroys the ocean bed on the huge scale but also kills many economically crucial but endangered species.

In a similar way to CPAs, within OPAs, the primacy of the conservation of nature and its resources should be applied over any other human activities. Each particular OPA would be divided into two zones: conservation zone consisting of national parks and reserves (under relevant states jurisdiction) and commonly managed zone (remaining areas), where exploitation of living marine resources would be subject to strict international control.

Similar to CPAs, major urban, industrialized and mining areas located within OPAs will not be their integral part, but will remain internal enclaves- Industrial Urban Zones-zone with strictly defined boundaries.

Fig. 2. The scheme of the Oceanic Protected Area OPA
[UNDESA/DSD: Please download the original document to view fig.2]

Conclusion

Formation of a global network of Continental and Oceanic Protected Areas is based on easily understood and simple principles, which would constitute a legally binding international convention and preferably implemented under the patronage and supervision of the United Nations Organization in the future. It seems to be the best option justified by the fact that in the case of OPAs large part of their areas is referred to as the common good of all mankind, and does not come within the jurisdiction of any state.

At present, the conservation of nature, which is solely founded on arguments postulating the need of biodiversity protection motivates neither developed nor developing countries. Only additional coordination and integration of the wildlife conservation with fresh waters and their sources, marine waters and forests protection, preventing soil erosion, spatial planning and rational settlement policy may stimulate people to act practically for their own sake and lead to successful sustainable development.

Restoration of large forest areas, grasslands and soils within some CPAs, destroyed by humans in the past, will considerably contribute to reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, which in turn will have positive effect on the stabilization of global climate and conditions of the adjacent agriculture areas in the future.

Summing up, this concept creates new vision of the world economic and agricultural development at the beginning of the third Millennium founded on innovative principles of the coexistence of humans and nature, and if implemented, will allow both sides to survive as long as it is only possible.

Map: A map with suggested CPAs (in red) and OPAs (in blue)
[UNDESA/DSD: Please download the original document to view map]

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