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Effectiveness of Terrestrial Protected Areas in Reducing Human Pressure

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - PRESSURE (Effectiveness of Terrestrial Protected Areas in Reducing Human Pressure)

Reporting period: 2017-09-01 to 2019-08-31

Human impacts on nature have led to massive biodiversity declines rivaled only by five previous events in the 3.8 billion years life has existed. To avert this human pressure, protected areas have been suggested as one of the most important tools to protect biodiversity and the provision of ecosystem services. As a response the international community has committed to protecting 17% of terrestrial areas and inland waters by 2020 (i.e. Aichi Biodiversity Target 11 of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020). Thus, understanding how protected areas can reduce human pressure to better help protect the worlds biodiversity is one of the most pressing questions in conservation science.

In this project has aimed to advance our understanding of the effectiveness of terrestrial protected areas in reducing human pressure and improve our current knowledge on how to measure human pressure through combining large-scale global dataset on change in human pressure and site-specific data on the quality of management from over 2,000 protected areas together with the World database on Protected Areas. These already published open-access data sources will allow for a unique look into the performance of protected areas by combining data across actions and activities that sets protected areas apart from non-protected land with data on outcomes of relevance for measuring whether protected areas contribute positively to halting the loss of biodiversity. Importantly, the project has taken a counterfactual approach – comparing protected areas to areas not protected but similar in environmental and socio-economic factors to increase the attribution of change in pressure to the intervention of protection and not the context of the protected area.

The results of this project are of relevance to the scientific community in terms of advancing our understanding of what contributes to protected area effectiveness as well as to the wider community especially in guiding the discussion for new and ambitious post-2020 targets for biodiversity under the Convention on Biological Diversity.
This project has resulted in nine peer-reviewed publications already out as well as one accepted and four currently under review. The results of this project has also been presented at several conferences and meetings.
This work has contributed new knowledge on the role of management in reducing human pressure as well as knowledge about the shortfalls of financing of protected areas globally. These results have been important in shaping the policy discussion around post-2020 targets for biodiversity currently being drafted towards the next Conference of Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2020. These results have also been instrumental in leading to my appointment as co-chair of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas’s Management effectiveness Specialist Group through which I have been able to participate directly in meeting on the post-2020 targets. Results relating the effectiveness of marine protected areas have also been presented for the European Parliament through expert testimony from me.
Overview of protected areas included in study