A study with new data, essential for evaluating how to achieve the EU goal of bringing biodiversity back to Europe on the road to recovery by 2030, and fundamental indications to do so so that the actions are lasting because they involve the populations of the territories to be protected. The group of the biologist Moreno di Marco, coordinator of the Biodiversity and Global Change laboratory of the La Sapienza University of Rome, has contributed to a new international research to quantify, through advanced geospatial algorithms, what would be the minimum area of territory to be preserved with policies of conservation to safeguard the biodiversity of species and terrestrial ecosystems around the world.
The research, published in Science, was coordinated by James R. Allan of the University of Amsterdam and was born from the collaboration of Sapienza with the University of Amsterdam, the University of Queensland, the organization ‘The Nature Conservancy’ (TNC ), the United Nations Development Program (Undp), the University of Cambridge, BirdLife International, the University of Tasmania, the Rights and Resources Initiative (Rri), the University of Kent, the University of Melbourne and the University of Delaware.
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Based on analyzes that took into account, as few other studies have done to date, a wider range of terrestrial species, the researchers indicated that to stop the crisis of terrestrial biodiversity it would be necessary to conserve an area of 64 million km2which corresponds to 44% of the planet’s surface. Furthermore, the models show that more than 1.3 million km2 of this land surface – an area larger than South Africa – risk being destroyed by 2030 from anthropogenic activities if no action is taken, with devastating consequences for wildlife.
In commenting on the results of the work, Di Marco emphasizes that these data are an impulse to implement “a change of mentality, because it is not enough to develop conservation strategies for animal species or try to always delimit new areas – observes the researcher – we must ask ourselves who lives in these areas at risk and also take into account their need to feed themselves and find energy resources “. In fact, the new work indicates that I am 1.8 billion people living in the identified areaspeople who must be main actors in policies to limit land use, deforestation and the delimitation of protected areas.
“To date, this research represents – explains Di Marco – the most comprehensive analysis of biodiversity conservation needs on a global scale and demonstrates that the expansion of protected areas is a necessary but not sufficient measure to reverse the decline in biodiversity”. Hence the political implications of the study “in light of the fact that several countries, under UN leadership, are currently negotiating new nature conservation objectives”. Despite the commitment of nations to conserve at least 17% of the earth’s surface through protected areas, Di Marco explains “from 2020 it was clear that this would not be enough to halt the decline of biodiversity and avert the crisis, also due to failure to achieve of other objectives “.
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If the general picture is not rosy, however, there are also data in the research that lead to a certain optimism: “However, there are solutions – says the Sapienza researcher – Our analysis shows that the risk for biodiversity deriving from habitat loss in areas important for conservation, it can still be significantly reduced, even 7 times, if sustainable land use policies are implemented “.
“It is clear – continues Di Marco – that the conservation objectives are decided on a political basis. If we now decide to protect 30%, a figure that is not far from what we have indicated of 44%, we must also ask ourselves what it is. the biological significance of these numbers, what are the actions to be taken on the spot, as well as the identification of a general objective “. The area of greatest importance for the interventions Di Marco identifies it above all in the general reduction of land consumption, but strongly emphasizes that “without delimiting or preserving other areas, the risk of biodiversity loss would be reduced by seven times if only the activities already present in the areas at risk were implemented in a sustainable way “.
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In other words, as the scientists who deal more specifically with reducing emissions and mitigating climate change also underline, what we cannot afford is to move forward with the “business as usual” model and before starting new actions. we should modify the current ones. In this regard, Di Marco still insists on involving the populations who live in the places to be protected: “We cannot just think of delimiting new territories, especially in countries like ours, where there are few areas in which human presence is absent. be willing to flexibly evaluate approaches to different areas and also think about compensation strategies if the anthropogenic impact in one area cannot be reduced “.
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