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Aichi Target 11 of the Convention on Biological Diversity urges, inter alia, that nations protect at least 17 % of their land, and that protection is effective and targets areas of importance for biodiversity. Five years before reporting on Aichi targets is due, we assessed the Philippines’ current protected area system for biodiversity coverage, appropriateness of management regimes and capacity to deliver protection. Although protected estate already covers 11 % of the Philippines’ land area, 64 % of its key biodiversity areas (KBAs) remain unprotected. Few protected areas have appropriate management and governance infrastructures, funding streams, management plans and capacity, and a serious mismatch exists between protected area land zonation regimes and conservation needs of key species. For the Philippines to meet the biodiversity coverage and management effectiveness elements of Aichi Target 11, protected area and KBA boundaries should be aligned, management systems reformed to pursue biodiversity-led targets and effective management capacity created.
The boom in the number of protected areas (PAs) around the world (Soutullo 2010) is widely seen as a major contribution to global biodiversity conservation efforts. How well they are achieving this is not clear, however, owing in part to the diversity of ways in which the contribution of PAs to biodiversity conservation is measured (e.g. Rodrigues et al. 2004; Leverington et al. 2010; Joppa and Pfaff 2011; Butchart et al. 2012; Clark et al. 2013). The need for indicators of PA performance became acute in 2010, when the 193 Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) included an ambitious target for global coverage and management effectiveness of PAs (Aichi Target 11: https://www.cbd.int/sp/) in its 2011–2020 Strategic Plan.
The target involves a complex range of measures for PAs, relating to their extent, representativeness, connectivity, management effectiveness, equitability and integration into wider land- and seascapes (Woodley et al. 2012). The complexity of the target reflects the range of ecological and societal demands now placed on PAs and the political challenges of balancing these aspirations. This, together with the variety of approaches that have been used to define the location and configuration of PAs, means that adequately assessing their contribution towards this target, and thus biodiversity conservation, is a significant challenge. The CBD-mandated Biodiversity Indicators Partnership (BIP) has identified three measures by which to monitor progress towards this target: coverage, overlap with biodiversity, and management effectiveness (http://www.bipindicators.net). While updated analyses of progress on coverage and overlap with biodiversity were promised for 2014 (see Butchart et al. 2015), progress on assessments of effectiveness was left as funding dependent. This was unfortunate, as effectiveness is arguably the hardest to measure yet the most important to achieve: a PA network that satisfies criteria for coverage and biodiversity overlap will still fail if it is inadequately managed. As PA networks are typically managed at the national level, it is appropriate to find ways of assessing the contribution of national networks to Aichi target 11 and we do so here using the Philippines as a case study.
The Philippines (4º40′–21º10′N 116º40′–126º34′E) comprises more than 7100 islands covering c.300 000 km2. The country is of crucial importance to global biodiversity because of its exceptional levels of narrow endemism, both terrestrial and marine (Myers et al. 2000; Carpenter and Springer 2005; Posa et al. 2008). However, it also suffers from problems relating to an impoverished, large and rapidly increasing human population (c.100 million in mid-2014 or 334 people/km2: http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/philippines-population/), a gross loss of forest cover especially at lower elevations, and many unsustainable land-use practices (e.g. Sodhi et al. 2010). These factors have resulted in the Philippines supporting by far the largest number (36) of ‘Critically Endangered’ and ‘Endangered’ (sensu IUCN) endemic bird species of any country in the world proportionate to its size.
The conservation of seriously threatened taxa requires a network of effective PAs. PAs were first established in the Philippines in the 1930s during American occupation, and followed the Yellowstone National Park model (Pyare and Berger 2003). However, they had no management systems and were considered ‘paper parks’ until the late-1980s (DENR/UNEP 1997), when the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB; now Biodiversity Management Bureau, BMB) was created under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to consolidate government efforts to conserve natural biological resources through the establishment of a protected areas system. By 1992, the National Integrated Protected Areas System law (NIPAS) was passed, encompassing 203 terrestrial protected areas.
Two decades after NIPAS, the Philippine National Plan for Protected Areas submitted to CBD stated that, in 2010, the number of protected areas (hereafter PAs) in the Philippines had risen to 240, covering 13.5 % of the land area (40 587 km2) and 1.5 % of territorial waters (Anon. 2012). However, the presence in the country of 36 CR and EN bird endemics, whose IUCN status is based on significant actual or potential declines in numbers, suggests that its PA network represents an incomplete response to the halting of species extinctions required by Aichi Target 12, because they are failing to address the drivers of habitat loss either outside or inside the PA, or both. In the past 30 years, new evidence plus increasingly sophisticated analyses of biodiversity distributions (e.g. Mallari et al. 2001; Ong et al. 2002) have identified new or better places to establish PAs, revealing a growing mismatch between existing PAs and key sites for biodiversity. Moreover, even well-positioned PAs appear to lack the capacity to manage their biodiversity adequately (e.g. van der Ploeg et al. 2011). Here, by gauging the degree of mismatch between the current network of PAs and their objectives as set-asides for biodiversity conservation, we seek to identify the remedies that government could and should apply. We do this by combining information from various sources to answer clearly articulated questions in a way that should be repeatable in many countries.
The official list of 240 (170 terrestrial + 70 marine) PAs was obtained from PAWB (version June 2012). For each PA, this database listed its (1) name, (2) location, (3) area coverage, (4) proclamation date, (5) PA category (based on NIPAS) vis-à-vis IUCN category (I–VI), (6) management status (existence of management plan and PA management board) and (7) total income generated. This was then compared with a spatially explicit database on Philippine biodiversity, incorporating data on Important Bird Areas (IBAs; Mallari et al. 2001) and key biodiversity areas (KBAs; Conservation International Philippines, DENR & Haribon 2006) and also with the distribution of Endemic Bird Areas (EBAs; Stattersfield et al. 1998). The criteria used to identify these KBAs have been further developed into a global standard, and consultation is underway prior to publication by IUCN (www.iucn.org/about/work/programmes/gpap_home/gpap_biodiversity/gpap_wcpabiodiv/gpap_pabiodiv/key_biodiversity_areas). We then assessed the mismatch of key biodiversity distribution and PA coverage and capacity by answering four questions, each of which was carefully designed to generate crucial measurements relating to position, process, personnel and practice in a simple, replicable manner.
Around 11 % of the Philippines’ land area is currently designated as PAs, a figure exceeding that for many other biodiversity-rich countries of the world (Jenkins and Joppa 2009; Beresford et al. 2011). It represents a substantial commitment to conservation for a developing country with huge stresses on its land. It is important to acknowledge that, after a period in the 1970s and 1980s when logging was rampant inside PAs (Myers 1988), PA management in the Philippines has greatly improved in recent years (Posa et al. 2008), although a recent assessment still describes the state of PA management in the country as ‘poor’ (Guiang and Braganza 2014). Nevertheless, Aichi Targets 11 on PAs, and 12 on species extinctions, inevitably imply that all Parties must make additions and alterations to their PA networks. Our analysis, with negative responses to each of our four questions, reveals just how extensive these additions and alterations need to be in the Philippines, which is underperforming in all three indicators currently used to measure progress towards Aichi Target 11.
As noted in a parallel study, the many and serious deficiencies in PA management in the Philippines are being recognised and remedied, at least in some PAs, through new practices that clarify roles and bind in more stakeholders (Guiang and Braganza 2014). Encouragingly, the Philippine government is seeking to improve the PA system by crafting a Protected Areas Masterplan. This represents a one-off opportunity for bilateral and multilateral funding mechanisms to support a complete system overhaul and upgrade, and for the scientific community to lend technical support and engage with government partners. Moreover, since the 1990s PAWB (now BMB) has been making creditable efforts to address the shortcomings of the PA system, as indicated in its recently initiated ‘New Conservation Areas in the Philippines Project’ (www.newcapp.org). Nevertheless, the urgency of the situation is extreme: at the time of writing, the deadline for the Aichi Targets is only 5 years away. Below, we offer our judgement on the most appropriate remedial actions, however radical or problematic these may appear, and hope this may be a template for all countries as they work towards meeting Aichi Target 11.
Governments have often established PAs in relatively unimportant (‘rock and ice’) locations for biodiversity or economic development (e.g. Scott et al. 2001; Joppa and Pfaff 2009). In the Philippines, the mere 36 % overlap between established PAs and terrestrial KBAs reflects something of this trend towards irrelevance, but such mismatch is not unusual; for example, a negligible proportion of the ranges of seriously threatened African bird species falls within the continent’s current PA system (Beresford et al. 2011). Nevertheless, Philippine KBAs have been identified on the basis of species vulnerability, irreplaceability (endemism) and population concentrations, all of which constitute high biodiversity value, and the small ranges of these species in relative terms render the case for immediate and radical action compelling. It is worth adding that, with the application of modern techniques involving genetic and acoustic analysis, and with continuing investigations in what is, perhaps surprisingly, a still under-explored country (Mallari et al. 2004), many new species continue to be discovered and, as a consequence, new localised centres of endemism are being identified, each requiring protection (Posa et al. 2008; Balete et al. 2011).
The time is therefore ripe both to reassess the positioning of the Philippines’ existing PA network, which may involve some de-gazetting, and to optimise placement of new reserves with respect to threatened taxa. The Philippines acknowledges that addressing gaps in the PA network is a priority (Anon. 2012), but the KBA mismatch is so large that sweeping measures are needed not only to accommodate unprotected KBAs but also to replace PAs that offer only marginal biodiversity benefits (see, e.g. Fuller et al. 2010).
Many Philippine threatened species are forest dependent. Density estimates for key species in pristine and altered habitats are rare, but most endemic bird species prefer little-disturbed lowland forests, as in Mindoro (Lee 2005), PPSRNP (Mallari et al. 2011) and Luzon (Española et al. 2013); on Luzon the same is true of small mammals, which have also demonstrated an important capacity to recolonise forest regenerating after logging (Rickart et al. 2011), indicating that PAs which contain such habitat can be of great value in the longer term. Traditionally, however, the ‘core zones’ of Philippine PAs (areas where NIPAS law prohibits all human activity except traditional practices by indigenous people) are generally above 1000 m, an elevation widely accepted as the crude uppermost level of what may be considered ‘lowland’ (Catibog-Sinha and Heaney 2006). Areas below 700 m tend to become buffer zones, which are open access areas for multiple use including permanent or swidden agriculture, settlements and tourist infrastructure.
Nevertheless, under NIPAS law, any part of a PA containing globally threatened species should be included within the core zone. Clearly, therefore, significant areas of lowland natural ecosystems within PAs should now be re-designated as core zone. A key step to achieve this is for government to reform its policy on zoning PAs so that forests are no longer defined solely by slope and elevation but instead by ecological parameters of conservation relevance. This will help management authorities redraw boundaries with appropriate land-use management regimes. Moreover, any new PAs need greater institutional flexibility than those in the old system. Alternative models of governance are already being tested as part of the Philippines’ contribution to the CBD’s Programme of Work on Protected Areas (Anon. 2012).
The third indicator of Aichi Target 11 is a measure of management effectiveness and, at present, the Philippines falls far short. Other than a Presidential Proclamation, only around one in ten PAs has a functional infrastructure and unequivocal legality by which to operate effectively. The lack of management plans, dedicated budgets, operating management boards or even Congressional approval undermines efforts to promote biodiversity conservation in 38 000 km2 of theoretically protected land. The great majority of Philippine PAs therefore remain ‘paper parks’.
All PAs, present and future, must have clear strategic/management plans and infrastructure in place. They should meet measurable biodiversity-led targets, not merely execute particular management activities. For example, PPSRNP has expanded its area of ‘protection’, but without appropriate resources this cannot translate into effective biodiversity protection. New PAs, for which we anticipate the Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) as a key species, must establish specific targets relating to the conservation of key species and addressing sub-population sizes and other IUCN Red List criteria measures (Rodrigues et al. 2006).
A further consideration here is that different departments of government have different, unreconciled mandates (Guiang and Braganza 2014). The Department of Agriculture promotes the production of high-value vegetable crops, the Bureau of Mines and Geosciences of DENR promotes mining and the Forest Management Bureau of DENR promotes logging, each of these activities often taking precedence over conservation, even in PAs. Added to this are the jurisdictional conflicts with local government units where, for example, PAs overlap with ancestral lands under the management of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (e.g. Mallari 2009). Stable, sustainable biodiversity conservation will depend on the harmonisation of these mandates (e.g. Miller et al. 2009).
The capacity to deliver conservation management and monitoring varies across Philippine PAs but is undoubtedly low in terms of legal authority, management standards, funds, staff and expertise. Some targeted research and general monitoring are undertaken at a few sites, but there has been no analysis or feedback to inform management changes. PA authorities must now acquire sufficient capacity to develop and implement biodiversity-led management plans in direct line with the targets they set. Such capacity is needed
leads the Center for Conseravation Innovations Philippines Inc. and is involved in protected area planning and management.
is a Senior Research Fellow at BirdLife International whose research focuses on severely threatened bird species and actions to halt species declines.
is a Senior Lecturer at Newcastle University, particularly interested in species and land management across the tropics.
is a Professor in Conservation Ecology at Manchester Metropolitan University interested in research on the effects of land use and other environmental change on endangered wildlife.
Neil Aldrin D. Mallari, Phone: +63 908 8620921, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nigel J. Collar, Email: email@example.com.
Philip J. K. McGowan, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stuart J. Marsden, Phone: +44(0)161 247 6215, Email: email@example.com.