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Humans and wildlife on the move: 4 concepts to rethink conservation

Humans and wildlife on the move

4 concepts to rethink conservation

Humans and wildlife on the move

4 concepts to rethink conservation

By Emily Jerome

The climate crisis presents an opportunity to bridge conservation and human rights. New research outlined four concepts to rethink conservation.

Both humans and wildlife are on the move as climate change continues to impact the Earth’s atmospheric conditions. Increases in extreme weather, sea-level rise and water and food shortages have the potential to displace over 1 billion people by 2050. Changes in temperature and precipitation have already driven roughly 50% of wildlife species to shift their geographical ranges and find more suitable places to live. This exodus of people and wildlife highlights the need for an alternative and intersectional approach to conservation that weaves together climate science and human rights.

1Caribou travelling through the tundra landscape
Caribou travelling through the tundra landscape. Photo by mlharing from Getty Images/Canva

The integration of conservation and human rights

In the wake of the climate crisis and biodiversity loss, campaigns for “nature needs half” have been popularized by E.O Wilson, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and more. But, studies have shown that protecting half could have a disproportionately negative effect on the rights, livelihoods and culture of Indigenous People and traditional communities. This is in part due to exclusionary conservation practices where protected areas are strictly managed and local communities face limited access to the land, diminished agency and are often entirely displaced. Exclusionary conservation practices are often associated with Wilderness Areas and National Parks, but there’s an opportunity to increase collaboration with local communities and elevate Indigenous-led conservation initiatives.

In fact, there’s increasing evidence that Indigenous Peoples are better at protecting forests from deforestation than non-Indigenous protected areas. As Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples wrote in a letter, “When bulldozers or park rangers force Indigenous Peoples from their homes, it is not only a human rights crisis—it is also a detriment to all humanity. Indigenous Peoples have long stewarded and protected the world’s forests, a crucial bulwark against climate change.” It then only makes sense that the path forward should include partnerships between conservation actors and Indigenous peoples and traditional communities.

People walking on log through a forest
Photo by Jupiterimages from Getty Images/Canva

4 concepts to rethink conservation

The climate crisis presents many conservation challenges, but also the chance to bridge conservation and human rights. Together, both fields can inform each other and work to simultaneously address climate change and biodiversity loss. In this way, we can move beyond exclusionary conservation practices and facilitate a just and effective response to current and future environmental crises. In a recent study, researchers outlined four concepts to catalyze a rethinking of conservation:

1. Mobile protected areas

Although this concept was originally applied to Marine Protected Areas due to the highly mobile and transient nature of marine wildlife, mobile protected areas are now being considered for land-based conservation. The defining feature of mobile protected areas is their dynamic boundaries that can adjust according to future environmental changes and corresponding wildlife displacement.

Tourists watch killer whales
Photo by Jupiterimages from Getty Images/Canva

2. Wildlife corridors

The key to long-term conservation is connectivity between protected areas. Large landscape connectivity is established through the creation and protection of wildlife corridors including large stretches of natural habitat and animal road crossing structures. Wildlife corridors allow for dispersal as species adapt to a changing climate.

3. Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas (ICCAs)

Dissimilar to other protected areas, Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas are grounded in local traditional knowledge and place culture and self-governance at the heart of conservation. They work to protect the interconnected and interdependent well-being of both the local communities and the surrounding environment. In Canada, Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs) serve a similar function as ICCAs.

4. Ex situ conservation

Ex situ conservation facilitates the protection of both flora and fauna species outside their natural habitat. This includes seed banks, captive breeding programs, aquariums and zoos. Ex situ conservation has successfully recovered populations verging on extinction including the swift fox and continues to support many at-risk species including woodland caribou. This conservation strategy also prepares for the anticipated effects of the climate crisis. For example, plant biodiversity is safeguarded through the collection and storage of global plant species in long-term storage facilities such as the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.

Svalbard Global Seed Vault
The entrance to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Photo by Global Crop Diversity Trust from Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

How can you help?

1. Learn more about protected areas, connectivity and Indigenous-led conservation in our blog.

2. Listen to our podcast, What the f*** is biodiversity, with Dr. Aerin Jacob on protected areas and the Yellowstone to Yukon region.

3. Read The Indigenous Circle of Experts Report, 2018, We Rise Together to learn more about Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs).

4. Contact the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, to express support for the creation of Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs) and other protected areas in collaboration with Indigenous and local communities.

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