How can protected areas help meet Sustainable Development Goals
(SDGs)? Although they were only adopted in 2015, the United Nations’
seventeen SDGs already play major roles in setting national development
priorities. Protected areas, far from only being important for nature
conservation, are increasingly recognised as key tools in achieving a number of these goals. Aligning with the start of the UN General Assembly, we explore the various links between protected areas and several SDGs.
The relationship between protected areas and SDGs is clearest in SDGs 14 and 15: Life below Water and Life on Land.
SDG 14 includes a target of 10% ocean protection and SDG 15 refers to
meeting “obligations under international agreements”. These are clear
references to the Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CBD) 2020 target of 17% terrestrial and 10% marine coverage by protected areas.
these linkages are only part of the story. Protected areas are relevant
to many important issues, from food security to climate change
mitigation, due to their role in maintaining and restoring ecosystem services.
in natural ecosystems, especially forests and wetlands, produce
cleaner, purer water than those from agricultural or industrial areas.
Hundreds of cities,
from New York to Melbourne, draw drinking water from protected areas.
Some municipalities pay to support the management of protected areas
because they provide a cost-effective water supply; others remain
virtually unaware that their water comes from a protected area. In some
ecosystems, particularly tropical mountain cloud forest and paramos
vegetation of the South American Andes, the net amount of water
increases because moisture settles on leaves and flows into the
catchment. In Colombia, Bogota draws 80 per cent of its drinking water
from Chingaza National Park. Such benefits contribute directly to SDG 6, Clean Water and Sanitation, which
aims to achieve “universal access to safe and affordable drinking
water” and “protect and restore water-related ecosystems”.