Scientists created a blueprint for saving life on earth

Scientists created a blueprint for
saving life on earth

Scientists created a blueprint for saving life on earth

Intended to tackle the twin crisis of biodiversity loss and climate change, the global safety net maps a network of land vital for nature and humanity.

With a ‘COP 21 for biodiversity’ scheduled to take place in October in China, 2020 was expected to be the biodiversity super year. This summit was especially important given the release of the landmark Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in May 2019, which illuminated the unprecedented loss of global biodiversity. However, with the rise of the global pandemic,  this it was postponed along with the many events leading up to it.

Despite this setback, world leaders joined a key biodiversity summit in New York on September 30, 2020, where they signed the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature. Intended to unite nations from across the world in the global fight to reverse biodiversity loss, it focuses on tackling pollution, strengthening environmental agreements, and halting the dumping of plastic waste. This is especially promising given the world failed to meet any of the 20 biodiversity targets set in Aichi Japan in 2010.

While pledges are great, we need more action! Here’s where protected areas come in.

Common Ringlet
Common Ringlet. Photo by Mr. Wolf, via iNaturalist (CC BY 4.0)

Protected areas: A lifeline for biodiversity

One of the most important solutions for reversing biodiversity loss are protected areas. These geographically defined spaces protect biodiversity through long-term conservation efforts. They also enhance the systems in nature that we rely on for our health, wellbeing, and livelihoods.

Scientists at Resolve, an environmental research organization, recently published a global “safety net” blueprint to halt biodiversity loss. One Earth describes this as “a network of land areas that are vital for nature and humanity”. Intended to solve the twin crisis of biodiversity loss and climate change, this digital map weaves together unprotected areas that are vital for biodiversity with areas that are already protected. It also integrates wildlife corridors, which help connect ecosystems together and provide passage for wildlife migration. While many of these areas are degraded, they can be restored and reconnected, which in turn will increase nature’s resilience.

Two bison in a grassy field
Wood Bison. Photo by Kumovic via Getty Images/Canva

6 Layers of the Global Safety Net

1. Protected Areas: Maintain 15.4% of the earth’s landmass that is currently protected by governments from across the world.

2. Rare Species Sites: Protect 2.3% of identified land is home to incredibly rare and vital animals and plants.

3. High Biodiversity Areas: Protect 6% of land that is home to high biodiversity areas, which contain populations of species that vital for maintaining ecosystems.

4. Large Mammal Landscapes: Protect 6.3% of land that is home to the largest mammals in need of protection.

5. Intact Wilderness Areas: Protect the 16% of remaining intact ecosystems (forests, shrublands, and grasslands) that have had minimal human impact.

6. Climate Stabilization Areas: Protect 4.7% of land areas that provide additional carbon absorption and storage, which help to stabilize the climate.

Together, these areas make up 50.7% of the earth’s land mass. This echoes the main message conveyed by Nature Needs Half. Over one-third of these areas are on Indigenous lands, therefore, upholding, strengthening, and safeguarding the land rights of these communities is vital for protecting our planet.

Explore the map here to learn how Canada can do its part.