Biodiversity is highest on indigenous-managed lands – even higher than protected land areas

“Partnerships with Indigenous communities can ameliorate shortfalls in habitat protection for biodiversity conservation.”

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Indigenous-managed lands possess the greatest levels of biodiversity, perhaps even more than the biodiversity in protected areas says a new study published in the journal of Environmental Science & Policy.

Studying biodiversity levels in nearly 16,000 areas across Australia, Brazil, and Canada, the team of researchers found that land fully or co-managed by indigenous communities contained the highest levels of biodiversity.

Protected areas of lands, such as parks and wildlife reserves, came in second. Size and location of the land had less of an impact on species diversity levels than who the land was managed by.

The biodiversity studied in this case refers to the total numbers of birds, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles.

“This suggests that it’s the land-management practices of many Indigenous communities that are keeping species numbers high,” said lead author Richard Schuster. ”Going forward, collaborating with Indigenous land stewards will likely be essential in ensuring that species survive and thrive.”

“Indigenous-managed lands represent an important repository of biodiversity in three of the largest countries on Earth, and Indigenous peoples currently manage or have tenure to roughly one-quarter of the planet’s land area,” said co-author Nick Reo.

Researchers said that collaborating with Indigenous governments, communities, and organizations is crucial to conserving biodiversity.  “Partnerships with Indigenous communities can ameliorate shortfalls in habitat protection for biodiversity conservation,” concludes the study.

Conservation programs that have succeeded in creating parks, reservations, and other protected areas of land often choose areas for their lack of economic value, not for their vulnerable species.

This first of its kind study comes just a few months after the United Nations released a report stating that up to a million species face extinction in the near future.

“Protected areas are a cornerstone of biodiversity conservation globally, but current levels of protection will be insufficient to halt the planetary extinction crisis,” said Peter Arcese, the Forest Renewal B.C. Chair in Conservation Biology at the University of British Columbia (UBC) , where the study was conducted.

“We must manage a larger fraction of the world’s area in ways that protect species and leads to positive outcomes for people and the species they’ve relied on for millennia.”

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