The following blog is written by Dr Paul F. Donald, Global Science Coordinator (IBAs and KBAs), BirdLife International (project lead for the CCI Collaborative Fund project ‘The role of ‘other effective area-based conservation measures’ in achieving Aichi Target 11’).
Aichi Target 11 of the CBD Strategic Plan for Biodiversity commits countries to the effective conservation of areas of importance for biodiversity, through protected areas and “other effective area-based conservation measures” (OECMs). However, the prevalence, characteristics and effectiveness of OECMs are poorly known, particularly in sites of importance for biodiversity such as Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs).
This project undertook the first ever assessment of the prevalence and characteristics of management systems meeting the current OECM definition in 740 unprotected KBAs across ten countries. The project started with a workshop in November 2016 attended by all project partners to develop a shared understanding of the importance of OECMs and the aims and objectives of the project. BirdLife Partners in ten countries (Australia, Bolivia, Canada, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Philippines, South Africa) were contracted to undertake surveys of the unprotected KBAs in their respective countries to collect data on the presence and characteristics of any OECMs there.
The key finding is that a very high proportion of unprotected KBAs (76.5%) were at least partly covered by one or more potential OECMs, suggesting that OECMs could play a significant role in conserving key sites for biodiversity outside the protected area network, particularly in areas of higher human population density where creating protected areas may be more problematic. This result lends empirical support to the concept of OECMs as a potentially effective conservation mechanism that deserves specific recognition in efforts to safeguard the most important sites for biodiversity.
Our project identified a wide range of management systems that appear to meet the current definition of OECMs, from state forests to commercial salt pans, and found that a very high proportion had the conservation of natural resources as a stated or as the main management objective. Formal recognition and documentation by governments of OECMs in their CBD reporting, and support to maintain them, could make a significant contribution to conservation, particularly in areas of high human population density where the creation of protected areas is problematic or politically unpalatable. An unanticipated output of this project has been the recognition of errors in the shapes or locations of both KBA boundaries and protected area boundaries; work is currently underway to fix these
The results have been shared with the IUCN WCPA Task Force on OECMs and fed into the development of guidelines and definitions for use in identifying OECMs. As a direct result of this project, a successful funding proposal has been submitted by project staff, including one of the ten BirdLife Partner organisations involved in the project, to support further work to help governments to meet their CBD reporting commitments by developing practical guidelines on the in-country identification and documentation of OECMs. The project team are also supervising a PhD student who is looking at OECMs in Tanzania in collaboration with the South African team, so that the project has an active and ongoing legacy.
For more information on the CCI Collaborative Fund project, please visit the project page.