More than 8,000 people from around 170 countries have gathered on Jeju Island, South Korea, for the IUCN World Conservation Congress, the world’s largest and most important conservation event. In this blog series we’ll cover the latest stories coming out of Jeju.
The Congress, which opened yesterday in a blaze of colour, music and inspirational speeches, brings together government and non-governmental organisations, scientists, businesses and community leaders to discuss, debate and vote on solutions to some of the world’s most pressing environmental and development issues. Held every four years, the Congress aims to look in depth at how nature, our most valuable tool, provides the solution to many of the globe’s problems.
“Nature is inherently strong, but we must improve how quickly nature and people adapt to change,” said Julia Marton-Lefèvre, Director-General of IUCN. “If we strengthen nature, we’ll see that ecosystems are more resilient and people, communities and economies are healthier.”
Running from 6 to 15 September, the Congress will focus on a wide variety of global and local issues, from climate change and threatened species to using nature to promote peace between nations. A whole host of notable figures will be joining the delegates, including leading author and oceanographer Sylvia Earle, and HRH Prince Carl Philip of Sweden.
Caribbean coral decline
It is crunch time for Caribbean corals, according to a recent IUCN report. Studies have shown that average live coral cover on Caribbean reefs has declined to just 8% of the reef area, a drastic reduction from the 50% cover in the 1970s.
These shocking declines have been attributed to a variety of threats, as Carl Gustaf Lundin, Director of IUCN’s Global Marine and Polar Programme, explained: “The major causes of coral decline are well known and include overfishing, pollution, disease and bleaching caused by rising temperatures resulting from the burning of fossil fuels,” he said. “Looking forward, there is an urgent need to immediately and drastically reduce all human impacts if coral reefs and the vitally important fisheries that depend on them are to survive in the decades to come.”
Although the deterioration of live coral cover on some of the more remote reefs in areas such as the Cayman Islands is less marked, with up to 30% cover still remaining, the rates of decline on most reefs are showing no signs of slowing down. In response to these worrying statistics, IUCN is calling for strictly enforced local action to improve the health of coral reefs, including extending the reach of marine protected areas (MPAs) and introducing catch quotas to limit fishing levels.
New report on protected areas
Protected areas assist in reducing deforestation, as well as habitat and species loss, and support the livelihoods of over one billion people worldwide, according to the Protected Planet Report, released today by IUCN.
Encompassing national parks, nature reserves and other natural areas, protected areas are growing in number and now cover 12.7% of the world’s terrestrial area, and 1.6% of our oceans. The good news is that protected areas are diversifying rapidly in places critical to their success, with indigenous people and local communities being increasingly involved in the management of a substantial number of these areas.
The bad news is that the current protected area global coverage is well behind the Aichi Targets, a set of goals agreed upon two years ago by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). These targets set an objective of obtaining protection and equitable management of at least 17% of the world’s terrestrial areas and 10% of the world’s marine areas by 2020.
“Protected areas have contributed significantly to conservation of the world’s biodiversity and an increase in their coverage and effectiveness is vital to a thriving planet and communities for the future,” said IUCN Director-General Julia Marton-Lefèvre. “These rich natural areas are very important for people, who rely on them for food and clean water, climate regulation and reducing the impacts of natural disasters.”
Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Species Text Author