FOREST AREA DESIGNATED FOR CONSERVATION OF BIODIVERSITY.
The setting aside and management of land as protected areas is a key part of ongoing global efforts to conserve biological diversity. The amount of land set aside for conservation is an important indicator of progress, and the monitoring of this variable provides valuable information to conservation practitioners. The data on protected areas that were gathered, analysed and presented in FRA 1990 and 2000 are complemented by the data on area of forest designated for conservation in FRA 2005.
The primary global source of data is the World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA), which is managed by the World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC) of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and funded by the WDPA Consortium. The WDPA and the analysis of the data it contains are useful in understanding global trends in protected areas.
FRA 1990 (FAO, 1993) presented data in a table entitled Distribution of protected areas. It documented the number of protected areas and the total area under protection in developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America and in developed countries in Asia, Europe, the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), North America and Oceania.
FRA 2000 (FAO, 2001b) presented regional and global data on forests in protected areas and on the proportion of forest in protected areas in tropical, subtropical, temperate and boreal zones. The estimate in FRA 2000 that 12.4 percent of total forest area was in protected areas was of obvious interest. The relatively low proportion of boreal forest in protected areas was also significant. These findings should be compared with the contemporary World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)/IUCN goal of establishing an ecologically representative network of protected areas covering at least 10 percent of the world’s forest area by the year 2000 (WWF and IUCN, 1998).
For FRA 2005, information was requested from countries and areas on two measures of the area designated for conservation of biodiversity:
- forest area designated primarily for conservation of biodiversity;
- total forest area designated for conservation of biodiversity.
Areas designated for conservation of biodiversity, whether as the primary or a subsidiary function, include areas outside protected areas. At the same time, some forests in protected areas may be designated for the conservation of soil and water resources or a cultural heritage. So the estimated area of forest designated for conservation of biodiversity is not necessarily equivalent to the area of forest in protected areas."
For FRA 2005, Figures 3.4 and 3.5 show that there was a striking difference in all regions in the percentage of countries or areas that provided information on the two measures of the area of forest designated for conservation of biological diversity.
A plausible explanation for the large difference in response rates is that the calculation of the total area designated for conservation is rather complex and different methodologies are used at the national level. In Africa, eight forest-rich countries, accounting for 62 percent of the continent’s total forest cover, did not report on this measure. As a result, the estimate of the total area designated for conservation was less than half that of the area with conservation as the primary function, which is an anomalous result.
In South America, on the other hand, although only three out of 15 countries and areas reported on this measure, they account for 69 percent of the continent’s total forest area. The estimate of the total area designated for conservation was nearly three times the area having conservation as the primary function, which is consistent with what would logically be expected.
The data provided by countries on forest area designated primarily for biodiversity conservation show that, globally, more than 400 million hectares of forest – or 11.2 percent of total forest area of the reporting countries – are designated as having conservation of biodiversity as their primary function (Table 3.3).
The biggest area of forest designated for conservation of biodiversity is found in South America, followed by North America, while Central America and Western and Central Africa have the highest percentage of their forests designated primarily for conservation. Europe and Western and Central Asia have the lowest percentage of forests designated primarily for conservation.
Although the percentage of forest designated primarily for conservation is not exactly equal to the percentage of forest in protected areas, many countries used the area of forests in protected areas as a proxy value. It is thus not surprising to find that the global figure for this measure, 11.2 percent, is not significantly different from the estimate in FRA 2000 of the percentage of forest in protected areas, which was 12.4 percent.
The total area of forest designated for conservation is an interesting measure (Table 3.4) because it gives an indication of the area in which conservation is a consideration in land management, without necessarily being the priority, as might often be the case outside protected areas. It is logical to expect that this area will be larger than the area in which conservation is the primary function.
A comparison of Tables 3.3 and 3.4 confirms the expectation that the area designated for conservation would be larger than the area with conservation designated as the primary function. This comparison must be treated with caution, however, owing to the low response rates in Africa, Europe and Oceania for this variable.
For FRA 2005, countries were asked to make retrospective estimates for 1990 and 2000 for the two measures of forest area designated for conservation.
The estimates provided for the percentage of forest area designated primarily for conservation are summarized in Table 3.5. The figures in this table suggest that the area of forest devoted to biodiversity conservation has increased by at least 96 million hectares, or 32 percent, since 1990. This increasing trend is evident in all regions and subregions except Northern, Eastern and Southern Africa.
According to the 2003 United Nations list of protected areas (Chape et al., 2003), which deals with all ecosystems, the area of land within protected areas grew by 53 percent from 1992 to 2003. The difference between this figure and the finding of FRA 2005 may be due to larger rates of increase in ecosystems other than forests.
The trends in the total area designated for conservation are summarized in Table 3.6. There was an estimated 24 percent increase in the world figure for total forest area designated for conservation between 1990 and 2005. However, the reliability of the estimate is reduced by the small areas reported for Africa, Europe and Oceania.