What are protected areas and why are they so important?
The evolution of life on this planet is an astonishing story. Just think about how living organisms emerged on Earth billions of years ago from abiotic processes, and have adapted through the forces of natural selection to become life as we know it.
All of the interactions between the complex biological structures of genetic material, species and ecosystems have formed the life support systems we are a part of today. These components of biodiversity that have shaped the history of life and made our planet habitable for that many years, are what we need to protect. The inherent resiliency of nature is essential to the survival of our own species.
The causes of the global biodiversity crisis we are facing are well known, habitat loss and degradation is the primary driver of species extinction. Therefore the conservation of nature is crucial in slowing the pace of human pressures on the environment. Protected areas are one solution to this crisis.
Protected areas are geographical spaces managed through legal or other effective means to achieve the long term conservation of nature. There are different categories of protected areas recognized by governments around the world, with varying levels of protection. The main objective of conservation is to safeguard our planet’s biodiversity, by maintaining and restoring the ecological integrity of life support systems.
As conservationists, we attempt to understand natural systems, how they are affected and how they can be maintained. It also means that we need to work with people involved in resource and environmental management to achieve desirable conservation outcomes. The challenges in establishing protected areas involve environmental problem solving, as well as consensus decision making from governments, private enterprises, organizations and communities.
A brief look at our Dumoine, Noire and Coulonge conservation projects
Environmental organizations like CPAWS Ottawa Valley work to promote the establishment and effective management of protected areas. Our conservation projects are mostly in the Ottawa River watershed, a region that covers an area of just over 140 000 km2. While the federal government has recently committed to protect 25% of land and waters by 2025, only 8.62% of the watershed’s area is protected.
We need to respond to our region’s deficit in terms of protected areas. The Ottawa River watershed offers significant conservation opportunities to contribute to our government’s objective. The three rivers area (Dumoine, Noire and Coulonge) plays an important role in protecting biodiversity by connecting the boreal forest to ecosystems south of the Ottawa River.
Landscape connectivity determines the degree of species richness, a common measure of biodiversity that influences gene flow, adaptations and extinction risks. The creation of protected areas like the proposed Dumoine River aquatic reserve, and the projected Noire-Coulonge biodiversity reserve, sets aside large natural areas that enhances the resiliency of nature by limiting landscape alteration and fragmentation.
Protected areas not only provide ecosystem services, they also offer socio-economic development opportunities for surrounding communities. The Outaouais region of Quebec has been heavily impacted by the restructuring of the forest industry, and investments related to protected areas could create employment in sustainable sectors like the recreo-tourism industry.
Investments in nature are an essential part of a sustainable future. It is now recognized that biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse are among the top risk factors to our global economy, along with climate change and natural disasters. We know that our impact on the environment has severe effects on the diversity of species with which we share this planet. Let’s join our efforts in advancing the conservation of biodiversity through the creation of protected areas.
If you want to learn more about CPAWS-OV conservation projects, you can visit our campaign website page.
Conservation Project Manager
Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society – Ottawa Valley Chapter