Conservation of organisms should extend beyond national borders

Current nature reserves cover areas of questionable environmental worth, while many important oases remain unprotected. Why do international conservation recommendations apply only to individual nations?

Nature reserves are a vitally important tool for preventing the complete or local extinction of species.

However, the goals of environmental conservation are often discussed only on a national level, and even international recommendations only target individual countries despite the fact that plants and animals rarely respect national borders. Researchers at the University of Helsinki believe that environmental protection should focus more on international cooperation.

“Research has established that national decisions are ineffective on issues of global conservation,” explains Tuuli Toivonen, assistant professor of geoinformatics.

Toivonen and Enrico Di Minin, her colleague at the Department of Biosciences, published a freely available article on this issue in Bioscience, “Global protected area expansion: creating more than paper parks”.

More information on the spread of species

In terms of collecting material, planning conservation efforts and maintaining conservation areas, international cooperation still requires a lot of work, notes Toivonen. The number of species is dwindling at an alarming rate, so the need for more intense cooperation is dire.

Di Minin, a biologist focusing on conservation and ecology, has recommendations for which issue should be top priority.

“We must expand the available databases on the international spread of plant and insect species.”

Many conservation areas exist only on paper

According to Di Minin, the current network of conservation areas covers many regions of questionable value in terms of biodiversity. Meanwhile, many important areas remain without protection.

Conservation agreements alone guarantee nothing. Because the resources allocated to the maintenance of many conservation areas are insufficient, nature preserves exist only on paper.

“The international community should demand that new conservation areas be established in areas with the most natural value and recognised regardless of national borders. At the same time, we must ensure that newly established conservation areas have sufficient resources at their disposal,” Di Minin says.

The international community has set a goal to expand the size of nature conservation areas from the current 11% to 17% of world’s total land area.

At the international World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia last November, 12 new approaches were listed to update conservation in this decade.

Global protected area expansion: creating more than paper parks