Call to conserve one-third of oceans, land to head off extinction crisis

At least 30% of world’s oceans and lands must be formally protected and left to non-human species if the planet is not to descend into ecological chaos, says a senior researcher in a strongly worded editorial in the journal Science.

Laying out a challenge to word leaders, Jonathan Baillie, executive vice president and chief scientist of the National Geographic Society, says the minimum land and ocean protection targets are significantly higher than those enshrined at the 2010 Nagoya Conference of the Convention on Biological Diversity – regarded as the standard measure in the field.

Baillie’s higher targets, he explains, emerge from a recognition that current modelling rests on uncertain parameters. Scientists are still not sure of many basics in the field – the total number of plant, animal and fungi species in the world, for instance, and how they interact in various ecosystems.{%recommended 610%}

Because of this, he argues, there has to be an acceptance that any estimate of the minimum area required to conserve biodiversity is a best-guess only, and especial care should be taken to ensure that areas set aside are not too small.

“Anything less will likely result in a major extinction crisis and jeopardies the health and well-being of future generations,” he writes.

Current levels of protection – 3.6% of the oceans and 14.7% of land – “do not even come close to required levels,” Baillie notes.

He concedes that achieving his suggested minimum targets “will be extremely challenging,” but urges all organisations involved to try.

“If we truly want to protect biodiversity and secure critical ecosystem benefits,” he writes, “the world’s governments must set a much more ambitious protected area agenda and ensure it is resourced.”

He concludes by pointing to the Convention on Biological Diversity, set to be held in Beijing, China, in 2020, suggesting it as a convenient and timely forum at which to thrash the matter out.

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