by Zoom Out Mycology
Definitions and major players:
The concept of “protected space” always makes me sigh, because... yes, we have come to a point where we need to protect natural spaces and other forms of life from degradation and destruction by humans. The National Parks Service (NPS) and International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) have similar missions. They aim to preserve unimpaired natural and cultural resources, conserve the integrity and diversity of nature, and ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable. Among other achievements, the IUCN worked with United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to protect World Heritage sites around the world, such as the Taj Mahal in India and Serengeti National Park in East Africa.
In the USA, over 84 Million acres are protected. The US Geological Survey provides a mapping tool, PAD-US, it’s the official national inventory of U.S. terrestrial and marine protected areas that are dedicated to the preservation of biological diversity and to other natural, recreation and cultural uses, managed for these purposes through legal or other effective means.
The Ken Burns documentary series The National Parks: America's Best Idea is a must see to appreciate the struggles our predecessors took to protect the spaces. In 1906, Theodore Roosevelt, former president and distinguished conservationist, passed the Antiquities Act which created 18 national monuments, including the Grand Canyon; set aside 51 federal bird sanctuaries, four national game refuges, and more than 100 million acres' worth of national forests. More recently, Former President Obama was responsible for the protection of 548 million acres of habitat globally. And we must ensure that lands continue to be protected for future generations. It aches to think that we have to explain why nature should continue to exist but today we’re going to get to the bottom of what the impact of protected spaces is.
Nature’s Price Tag:
Intuitively, most people understand the importance and value of protected areas. They serve as sanctuaries and habitat for plant and animals that under otherwise threatened by human development. The protection of biodiversity is important to the survival of many species, and ultimately may impact our survival. National Parks now have about 300 million visitors per year, which indicates that whether for recreation, relaxation or sport, Americans and the folks who visit us understand the importance of parks to the human condition.
But the value of protected spaces is difficult to monetize, which therefore make the protection also a challenge.The 2010 article “Accounting for Nature's Benefits: The Dollar Value of Ecosystem Services”, provides a good summary of the various methods used to quantify the ecosystem benefits, citing a 1997 study that estimated the value of global ecosystem services to be $33 trillion per year. Below is an excerpt from the article, describing how an ecosystem can be viewed in economic terms.
In the book “Nature’s Fortune,” Mark Tercek and Jonathan Adams provide examples of The Nature Conservancy’s approach and successes in reframing the importance of ecosystem benefits to the bottom line of industries such that the industries pay for the protection of the environment.
The Future of Protected Space and Humans:
The future of our survival is tied to our current conservation habits and sustainable use of our natural resources. The loss of protected spaces impacts climate change and extreme weather events, biodiversity, as well as pest and disease control. I remain optimistic that human ingenuity, coupled with our new found awareness of the ecosystems and our dependency on its benefits, will bring more areas under protection and reverse some of the damage inflicted over the past 200 years.
The proposed Liuzhou Forest City in China – to be covered with 40,000 trees and almost a million plants - is an ambitious plan that tends to the philosophy of expanding the benefits of an ecosystem into our livable spaces – this both reduces the pressure of deeming the land “protected” and creates a new space with combined health and wellness benefits.
We all need to do our part in ensuring that our government at all levels know that protected spaces are important to us, get involved with and support groups that are working to protect areas, and work to improve the spaces around us. My little home may not worth much in the “marketplace” today, but my 0.1-acre garden makes it priceless to me (and my neighbors, I suspect!).
Zoom Out Mycology’s Environmental Awareness blog strives to explain and expose environmental topics and concerns to a wide audience. Our team consists of a diverse group of scientists, policy experts, and engineers that help describe the science behind environmental issues that you see in the news and experience in your daily life. We hope that this knowledge will help all of our readers embrace a healthy and sustainable lifestyle! If you are interested in being a guest contributor, please email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org