'Shared by Nature': How to better facilitate the conservation of land and sea areas on Earth

Editor's note: "Shared by Nature" invites experts and scholars from around the world to share their knowledge of major issues in nature, such as climate change, biodiversity conservation and environmental protection. Marie-Josée Fortin is a professor at the University of Toronto, and a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. She shared her experiences at biodiversity conservation from spatial planning perspective.

The second phase of the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP15) is ongoing in Montreal, Canada, between December 7 and 19. The conference is expected to lead to the adoption of the "Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework". One of the targets in the first draft of the Framework is that at least 30 percent of land areas and sea areas on Earth are conserved effectively before 2030.

CGTN talked to Professor Marie-Josée Fortin, who specializes in spatial ecology at the University of Toronto. She shared her views on better approaches to facilitating the conservation of both areas from a spatial planning perspective.

First, focus on the combination of several ecosystems rather than a single one, such as forests, which could create an area that is "contiguous from terrestrial to streams to oceans," she said. Then "a continuum across ecosystem and a more healthy environment" would be established for species that require freshwater and seawater, such as salmon.

To offer more protection for specific species in the ocean, Professor Fortin shared a tool by establishing a network of marine protected areas. Scientists first have access to the "trajectories of species in the present times and the future times. Then they model with some kind of optimization algorithms to identify where could be the area that maximizes the number of species in the current time and in the future." These areas are part of the network. Also, scientists look at the overlap, which are considered the protected areas as well. Therefore, the habitat for species, such as their mating, spawning and feeding grounds, would be well protected.

In addition, the shape of the protected areas matters. "For the ocean, rectangular shapes are used to maximize the range of marine ecosystems that exist from coastal areas to deeper areas. On land, it is better to have round areas as there is less edge effect and more interior area for species that require large habitat areas," she said.

The professor also expressed her expectations to the conference that international collaboration and reaching an agreement between countries are significant to conserve biodiversity globally. 

(Cover image designed by CGTN's Li Wenyi, video edited by CGTN's Xu Wen)

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