Global and European Conservation Targets

After failing to meet the biodiversity targets which had been set for 2010 (Butchart et al. 2010), the parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) adopted an agreement in Nagoya, which set 20 Aichi Targets to preserve biodiversity and ecosystem services by 2020 (CBD 2011). Several targets can be addressed by protected areas, wilderness, and rewilding. In particular, Target 11 requires that “at least 17 % of terrestrial and inland water […] are conserved through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well connected systems of protected areas […]”. For most European countries, this target has already been reached, in the sense that most countries have more than 17 % of their national territory within a protected area (Fig. 11.2b), although effective management and wilderness conservation might fall short (e.g. Fig. 11.2c). For other targets, the level of completion is not so easily measured. Target 15 calls for the enhancement of ecosystems' resilience including through the “restoration of at least 15 % of degraded ecosystems”, and the increase of carbon stocks. Rewilding is a particular case of restoration, and can contribute to the achievement of this target, particularly when looking into the increases in carbon stocks that could result from an enlargement of wild areas (see Chap. 3). Furthermore, Target 12 requires the prevention of the extinction of threatened species and the improvement of their conservation status. Again, the rewilding of abandoned landscapes, and an increase in wilderness areas, can directly contribute to this target, as several species already show increasing trends (Deinet et al. 2013; LCIE 2004; and see Chaps. 1 and 4). Finally, Target 7 requires that “areas under agriculture, aquaculture and forestry are managed sustainably, ensuring conservation of biodiversity”, while Target 3 calls for the termination, or the reform, of “incentives, including subsidies, harmful to biodiversity”. Both these tasks could be addressed by a reform of the subsidies system of the CAP and the AES, and their shift towards rewilding and the restoration of wild lands in low income agricultural areas (e.g. Merckx and Pereira, in press).

The Aichi Targets and their implications are not legally binding for countries. Nonetheless, the EU and all its Member States adopted the conservation targets in the European Biodiversity Strategy and defined a new regional strategy to 2020 (Table 11.2), in order to both halt biodiversity loss and restore degraded systems (European Commission 2011; Hochkirch et al. 2013). Some of these targets can be addressed by an efficient, and when needed better designed, network of PAs. The preservation of wilderness and the increase in wild areas is also considered as playing a crucial role in reaching some of the targets (European Commission 2013), namely “protecting and restoring biodiversity and ecosystem services” (Targets 1 and 2), and “reducing pressures on biodiversity” (Targets 3 and 5). Additionally, wilderness areas, being remote and not densely populated, present the advantage of lower land prices per hectare, while non-intervention implies drastically lower management costs (Mittermeier et al. 2003).

Table 11.2  EU targets and biodiversity strategies to 2020, most relevant within the context of protected areas, wilderness and rewilding discussed in this chapter. (European Commission 2011)

The EU incorporated the Aichi Target 3 to its plan, in particular to “reform, phase out and eliminate harmful subsidies at both EU and Member States level” (Target 6–Action 17c). At the same time, the Commission highlights the importance of integrating biodiversity policies into wider European policies concerns such as agriculture and forestry, and to “minimize the duplication of effort and maximize synergies between efforts undertaken at different levels” (European Commission 2011). In a context of farmland abandonment in remote and less productive areas, maximizing the synergies between conservation efforts can be done by redirecting subsidies towards rewilding (Merckx and Pereira, in press, and see Chap. 6), while allowing the remaining local population to live off the land through different means than its cultivation. Moreover, an efficient implementation of rewilding for the management of the abandoned land will have, in the long run, a positive impact on biodiversity and the supply of ecosystem services (see Chaps. 1, 3). The latter includes cultural services, such as ecotourism, which will directly benefit local populations.

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