Challenges for the conservation of protected areas in Latin America and the Caribbean

June 8, 2021

Luis Manuel Guerrero

There are many alternatives to overcome the challenges of biodiversity conservation in the LAC region. Green businesses, for example, have become a great initiative to advance sustainable development.

This blog presents three challenges that Latin America and the Caribbean is facing to comply with the 2030 Agenda, directly related to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 4, 12 and 15 on environmental education, production methods and responsible consumption and life of terrestrial ecosystems. It also presents the declaration process for protected areas in the region and its contribution to indicator 15.1.2 “Proportion of important places for terrestrial and freshwater biodiversity included in protected areas, broken down by type of ecosystem”.


1. The delimitation of protected areas is based on the generation of timely information 

According to the Protected Planet 2020 report, in Latin America and the Caribbean 24.21% of the total land area is covered by terrestrial protected areas.

To declare a protected area and contribute to indicator SDG 15.1.2, 3 steps must be followed, according to the World Wild Fund (WWF) and the Ministry of Environment of Colombia (Minambiente):

  • Phase I
    Preparation: Identify conservation priorities
  • Phase II
    Preparation: Collect all the information in which the area will be delimited and categorized
  • Phase III
    Declaration: Culmination of the process through the preparation of brief documents and the declaration.


2. Environmental constraints diminish people’s economic opportunities

  • While the creation of new protected areas limits the performance of mining, oil and forestry activities, green businesses create economic opportunities for people. Ecotourism is one of them. According to ECLAC, 72% of tourists are looking for authentic and local experiences, being natural landscapes a desired tourist destination. Thanks to this, Latin America and the Caribbean is making progress towards meeting indicator 12.7.1.
  • FAO has expressed difficulties in the development of REDD +, an initiative whose objective is to stimulate the reduction of emissions derived from deforestation and forest degradation. Developing countries present power asymmetries between the government, the private sector and citizens, and this has been an obstacle to accelerate the participation and negotiation of all actors.


3. Ignorance of protected areas affects ecosystems

  • The Amazon Network of Socio-Environmental and Georeferenced Information (RAISG) ensures that 50% of the Amazon area is protected under the figure of Protected Natural Areas; However, the Amazon has lost about 2.3 million hectares due to deforestation. According to data from the MAAP project, Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Colombia are the countries with the greatest loss of primary Amazon forest.
  • To stop the effects, environmental education, within the framework of the 2030 Agenda, is a pillar that can guarantee the conservation of protected areas by local communities and for future generations.
  • Regarding progress in the environmental dimension of the Sustainable Development Goals and in compliance with SDG 4.7.1 indicator, 15 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have policies focused on environmental education. This is a way of avoiding the reduction of natural ecosystems into protected areas, raising awareness within the local communities that live near these areas.
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