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Protected areas and CWR conservation

A system of protected areas constitutes a main element in the conservation strategies of most countries. Areas under different forms of protection support high biodiversity in general and threatened species, populations and ecosystems in particular.

This module introduces the concept of protected areas and examine the role protected areas can have in a CWR in situ conservation.




What is a protected area?

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a protected area (PA) is: ‘a clearly defined geographical space, recognised, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values1.

Protected areas include at least 114,000 sites and occupy more than 19 million km2, representing 12.9% of the earth’s land surface. They vary immensely in size and exhibit a great degree of diversity in terms of their conservation objectives, the degree of human activity permitted within them and the extent of stakeholder involvement.

1 - Dudley, N. (ed.) (2009) Guidelines for Applying Protected Area Management Categories, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Gland, Switzerland.

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CWR and PA management

Those engaged in targeted in situ species conservation must be aware of the main issues involved when seeking to cooperate with PA managers on management interventions for target species. The quality and effectiveness of management varies considerably and challenges include land encroachment, illegal logging, unsustainable agricultural practices in buffer zones and lack of proper management mechanisms and institutional capacity.

Most PAs do not include genetic management as a objective. The management needs of the populations of the CWR target species are quite specific and separate from the management of the protected area itself. In order to undertake the targeted management of CWR within PAs, an assessment will need to be made to determine the required changes to existing management plans in favour of the maintenance of healthy populations of CWR, as well as what needs to be done to allow implementation of specific interventions to ensure the survival target populations.

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PA ownership and governance

Protected areas vary greatly in how they are governed; management structures may change significantly over time. The main types of governance of include2:

2 - Chape, S., Spalding, M. and Jenkins, M. (eds) (2008) The World’s Protected Areas. Prepared by the UNEP World Conservation Centre, University of California Press, Berkeley.

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