Protected wildlife areas expand to Russia’s size

Protected wildlife areas expand to Russia’s size

OSLO - Reuters
Protected wildlife areas expand to Russia’s size

The protected wildlife areas rose to 12.7 percent in the world in 2010. AP Photo

Protected areas for wildlife have expanded worldwide to cover a land area the size of Russia in the past two decades, but far more parks and reserves are needed to meet a 2020 target, a study has showed.

The sharp growth, as governments expanded existing areas and declared new ones, was needed to help slow a loss of animal and plant species and to conserve eco-systems which serve vital functions such as purifying water and storing greenhouse gases, it said.

“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,” said Julia Marton-Lefevre, head of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The IUCN report, issued during a meeting of the organization in South Korea, said the areas protected had risen to 12.7 percent of the world’s terrestrial area in 2010, or 17 million sq km from 8.8 percent in 1990.

17 percent of land area

The United Nations has set a goal of protected areas reaching 17 percent of land area by 2020 that would mean adding at least 6 million sq km or an area about twice the size of Argentina or India, it said.

The area of the sea protected within national jurisdictions has risen more than four-fold to 4 percent, from 0.9 percent in 1990, but is also far short of a U.N. goal of 10 percent by 2020. Reaching the target would require adding marine areas the size of Australia. Protected areas also vary widely in their effectiveness, according to the study by IUCN.