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23 August 2021

from International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis

Together we fail to conserve the world’s biodiversity and mobilize natural solutions to curb global warming. A new study by the Nature Map Consortium shows that managing strategically located 30% of the land to protect could protect 70% of all terrestrial plant and vertebrate species considered while preserving more than 62% of the aboveground and underground world of vulnerable carbon and 68% of all clean water.

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In November the governments meet in Glasgow as part of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Natural climate solutions for containment and adaptation will be high on the agenda, as evidenced by the recent G7 Nature Pact and the Pledge of Heads of State and Government for Nature, signed by 88 heads of government. In 2022, China will host the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity to agree on a new global framework for biodiversity, including proposed targets to conserve and integrate at least 30% of land and oceans by 2030 , spatial plans that incorporate biodiversity, address land and marine use change.

In order to stop the decline of nature and achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, strategies for better land use management for agriculture, infrastructure, conservation of biodiversity, mitigation and adaptation to climate change, water supply and other needs are developed and implemented. As the draft Global Biodiversity Framework and current efforts in Costa Rica, China and other countries underscore, this requires spatial planning to assess where biodiversity conservation would be most beneficial for other policy goals.

To support such integrated strategies, a paper by the Nature Map Consortium recently published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution presents an approach to spatial planning. The aim of the paper was to identify areas of global importance that need to be managed for nature conservation while simultaneously protecting the greatest number of species from extinction, conserving endangered terrestrial carbon stocks and protecting freshwater resources. These efforts are the first of their kind to truly integrate biodiversity, carbon and water conservation into one common approach and one global map of priorities. Another special novelty of the work is the consideration of a comprehensive set of plant distribution data (approx. 41% of all plant species) in the analyzes and the definition of species targets for the risk of extinction.

“About biodiversity strategies for the period after 2020 such as global biodiversity To implement the framework, policymakers and governments need clarity about where resource and conservation management could bring the greatest potential benefits for biodiversity. At the same time, biodiversity should not be viewed in isolation. Aspects such as the conservation of carbon stocks in natural ecosystems should be considered alongside biodiversity so that synergies and compromises in the pursuit of several goals can be assessed, “explains lead author Martin Jung, researcher at IIASA Biodiversity, Ecology, and Conservation Research Group.

“The new global priority maps developed as part of the study show that quality (location and management effectiveness) is more important than quantity (global.) In order to strive for quality of conservation and to achieve the goal of To achieve the conservation of biodiversity, government and non-governmental agencies should set targets and indicators for what they want: the preservation of species, healthy ecosystems and their services to humans, and the identification of areas to be protected Our study provides guidance on how this is to be done, “adds Piero Vi sconti, co-author of the study, who heads the research group Biodiversity, Ecology and Conservation at IIASA could bring. In particular, it would protect more than 62% of the world’s sensitive carbon above and below ground and 68% of all freshwater, while ensuring that over 70% of all terrestrial vertebrate and plant species are not threatened with extinction. As the work shows, achieving these goals requires the strategic placement of conservation measures using spatial planning tools such as Nature Map and, most importantly, the empowerment of their administrators to manage these areas effectively.

“Such an approach can help decision makers prioritize sites for conservation efforts and shows how much both humans and nature can gain. In order to be successful in the long term, these areas must be managed effectively and fairly, and the strengthening of indigenous peoples and local communities, “says co-author Lera Miles, Principal Technical Specialist – Planning for Places, World Conservation Monitoring Center (UNEP-WCMC) des UN Environment Program.

“Maps for integrated spatial planning, as required in the draft of the Global Biodiversity Framework, are necessary to achieve climate and biodiversity goals. They are also crucial for financing natural climate solutions, improving the Carbon markets and the greening of supply chains, ”says Guido Schmidt-Traub, an author of the article who also wrote a comment in the same issue of Nature Ecology and Evolution.

The study shows that joint optimization for biodiversity, Carbon and water maximize the synergies that can be gained from conservation compared to de r sole emphasis on individual assets. By acting strategically at selected locations, significant advantages can be achieved across all three dimensions. Conservation efforts must, however, be expanded significantly by all social actors in order to achieve the global biodiversity and climate goals.

Jung points out that the analysis identifies the upper potential value of a given area that is suitable for protection on a global level should be managed. The team in no way suggests or implies that all areas of high value be placed under strict protection, as these management decisions are made by national and local stakeholders.

The team’s analyzes also confirm quantitatively many areas previously described as biodiversity hotspots that were previously based solely on expert opinions. By including selected data from the global tree of life that had previously been ignored in global prioritization – such as reptiles and plants – the team identified new areas that are considered important for biodiversity on a global scale. These include, for example, the southeastern United States and the Balkans. The research has also been helpful in updating and improving information on all areas of global importance for the conservation of biodiversity.

“Our methods, data and the global priority maps are intended to be used as decision-making support for major conservation initiatives. In addition, the study lays the foundation for a new generation of integrated prioritization and planning exercises that all stakeholders can use to inform nature conservation decisions at regional, national and subnational levels “, concludes Jung.

The global priority maps can be explored interactively in the UN Biodiversity Lab to support decision-makers and gain insights and implications for nature conservation and sustainable development.

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