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A spatial overview of the global importance of Indigenous lands for conservation

Abstract

Understanding the scale, location and nature conservation values of the lands over which Indigenous Peoples exercise traditional rights is central to implementation of several global conservation and climate agreements. However, spatial information on Indigenous lands has never been aggregated globally. Here, using publicly available geospatial resources, we show that Indigenous Peoples manage or have tenure rights over at least ~38 million km2 in 87 countries or politically distinct areas on all inhabited continents. This represents over a quarter of the world’s land surface, and intersects about 40% of all terrestrial protected areas and ecologically intact landscapes (for example, boreal and tropical primary forests, savannas and marshes). Our results add to growing evidence that recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ rights to land, benefit sharing and institutions is essential to meeting local and global conservation goals. The geospatial analysis presented here indicates that collaborative partnerships involving conservation practitioners, Indigenous Peoples and governments would yield significant benefits for conservation of ecologically valuable landscapes, ecosystems and genes for future generations.

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Fig. 1: Global map of lands managed and/or controlled by Indigenous Peoples (percentage of each degree square mapped as Indigenous in at least one of 127 source documents; Supplementary Information section 2).
Fig. 2: Spatial comparison of Indigenous Peoples’ and other lands.
Fig. 3: Regional variation in the conservation values of Indigenous Peoples’ and other lands.
Fig. 4: Area of each anthropogenic biome (anthrome14) on Indigenous Peoples’ land (brown) compared with other lands (yellow).

Images courtesy of the Integration and Application Network, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (ian.umces.edu/symbols/).

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Acknowledgements

We thank the thousands of people and government agencies who contribute to the World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) that is jointly developed by UN Environment and IUCN and managed by UNEP-WCMC in Cambridge, UK. We also acknowledge the efforts of those involved in participatory mapping of Indigenous lands, particularly F. Dubretet and others involved in developing the LandMark global platform for Indigenous and Community Lands. Early advice on the research was provided by A. Parellada, L. García-Alix and G. Rose of the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs and contributors to the World Parks Congress 2014 symposium on contributions to biodiversity conservation by the Indigenous Peoples and local communities of Africa: V. Courtois, H. Hunter-Xenie, A. Kothari, J. Morrison, G. Oviedo, J. Scott, B. Sithole, A. Tawake and L. Usongo. Additional national advice was kindly provided by R. Andreoli (New Caledonia), J. Ibanez (Philippines), N. Aldrin Mallari (Philippines), J. Scopélitis (New Caledonia), E. Stancioff (Dominica), V. Toral-Grande (Ecuador) and M. Tovar-Valencia (Mexico). J. Harrison and H. Bingham provided helpful comments on the final manuscript and L. Luck helped with illustrations.

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S.T.G. conceived the paper, drafted the initial text and analysed data. S.T.G., T.D., M.V.J., B.M., A.S. and I.L. located the maps and I.L. undertook the GIS analysis. J.E.F., K.K.Z., I.L. and H.G. analysed data. All 20 authors contributed ideas and finalized the text.

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Correspondence to Stephen T. Garnett.

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Garnett, S.T., Burgess, N.D., Fa, J.E. et al. A spatial overview of the global importance of Indigenous lands for conservation. Nat Sustain 1, 369–374 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-018-0100-6

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