Aichi Target 11 states that protected areas and OECMs should be ‘integrated into the wider landscape and seascape’. This implies that protected and conserved areas should not be considered or managed as isolated islands for biodiversity, but rather should be part of wider strategies for conservation and sustainable development beyond the areas themselves.
Integration involves factoring protected and conserved areas into broader sectoral and development planning, including local, national and regional spatial planning. It means considering the impacts and dependencies between protected and conserved areas and surrounding areas and people. It also involves identifying and recognising the many ways in which protected and conserved areas enhance human well-being, including through the provision of ecosystem services like climate change mitigation (e.g. Maxwell et al., 2020; Dinerstein et al., 2019; Smith et al., 2020), and through economic benefits (Box 13 discusses these benefits in the context of marine protected areas).
While biodiversity continues to decline, it will clearly be insufficient to focus on protecting areas with good ecological integrity without also restoring areas that have become degraded. The links with the UN Decade on Restoration (forthcoming reference) are numerous: by designating protected and conserved areas, and ensuring they are effectively governed and managed, further degradation can be mitigated. Simultaneously, a comprehensive overview of the current state of protected and conserved areas can inform the prioritisation of areas for restoration, with these areas potentially integrated into the network of protected and conserved areas over time. These complementary activities have the potential to enhance ecological representation and connectivity, while providing refuges for biodiversity, but they crucially can only do so if the broader drivers of biodiversity loss are also addressed. In this context, protected and conserved areas can be seen as one type of nature-based solution that can help to address the twin climate and biodiversity crises, provided they are accompanied by synergistic actions across the biodiversity and climate conventions (De Lamo et al., 2020).
In 2018, Parties to the CBD recommended the application of voluntary guidance that includes actions to enhance policy integration, and provided guidance on mainstreaming of protected areas across sectors to contribute to the SDGs (CBD, 2018). Such efforts might be considered in the context of a wider need for coordination across biodiversity-related targets (Díaz et al., 2020) and conventions (Rogalla von Bieberstein et al., 2019). To date, there are no agreed indicators for tracking progress on the ‘integrated’ element of Aichi Target 11 (Gannon et al., 2019). However, some inferences can be drawn by considering whether national and regional policies refer to integrated spatial planning. Many countries have yet to develop holistic spatial plans and incorporate these into relevant laws and policies, although some have described relevant strategies in their National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans, and others in their Nationally Determined Contributions under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. In an example of regional coordination, the new EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 puts a strong emphasis on ecological corridors to facilitate species migration and maintain healthy ecosystems. It also encourages the integration of biodiversity considerations into public and business decision-making at all levels.
Another indirect way of assessing progress on this element is to measure the ‘leakage’ (e.g. deforestation being displaced to the surrounding area) and ‘blockage’ (e.g. deforestation being reduced in surrounding areas) effects of protected areas on the surrounding landscape (Gannon et al., 2019). Recent studies have found that although protected areas are generally effective at preventing deforestation, leakage and blockage effects have been observed to varying degrees (e.g. Ford et al., 2020; Fuller et al., 2019).
Protected and conserved areas have a key role to play in achieving multiple Sustainable Development Goals, including Goals 14 and 15 (Life on land and Life below water), Goal 3 (Good health and well-being), Goal 5 (Gender equality), Goal 6 (Clean water and sanitation), Goal 11 (Sustainable cities and communities), and Goal 13 (Climate action). However, they cannot perform this role in isolation.
Larger and more effective protected and conserved areas will not halt biodiversity loss unless there is sustainable management across the surrounding land and seascape.
The shortfalls in meeting Aichi Targets 6 and 7 on sustainable use of natural resources (CBD, 2020) highlight the need for a greater future emphasis on the ‘integrated’ element of the current target.