Session 1: Protected Areas, Human Health, and Preventing Future Pandemics
Protected areas’ diverse biological resources provide ecosystem services essential to human survival and well-being. Despite the status of being protected and providing valuable services, the pressures driving biodiversity loss are still evident and need an immediate response. According to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), 75 per cent of the Earth’s land and 66 per cent of its oceans have been altered by human activities and many essential ecosystem services are eroding. The current COVID-19 pandemic revealed that the continuing biodiversity loss and degradation of ecosystems make protected areas vulnerable to emerging and re-emerging zoonotic diseases that pose insurmountable threats to human health and well-being. Rampant development intensifies these vulnerabilities and puts wild animals and humans in closer contact, thus, increasing the risk of spreading diseases.
Based on the AHP and Protected Areas Managers’ Survey on COVID-19 conducted in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic had various impacts on protected areas affecting their management and governance. Data showed that at the onset of the pandemic, the limited mobility resulted in a decline in the movements of poachers and other potential violators hence, there was a decrease in poaching and illegal harvesting of wildlife and forest products. The communities and authorities also reported the increased sightings of wildlife that are usually disturbed during the peak tourism season. These positive impacts were observed in parks fully managed by the government where official and essential works were permitted. Mobility restrictions also resulted in a decrease in patrolling and enforcement in some areas. The pandemic’s effect on local peoples’ livelihoods and sources of income drove some of them to revert back to unsustainable practices such as fishing in marine sanctuaries, or hunting and poaching.
The ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework (ACRF), the ASEAN’s consolidated pandemic recovery roadmap, emphasises the cross-sectoral and cross-pillar collaboration for recovery and resilience building to prevent future pandemics. This is specifically in terms of mainstreaming biodiversity across relevant sectors highlighting the importance of nature-based solutions. It also encourages individuals and communities to become ‘biodiversity-literate’ to adopt behaviours that address the root-causes of future pandemics and zoonoses.
The recognition of the linkages between anthropogenic changes and disease emergence has resulted in repeated calls for a more holistic approach to prevent future pandemics. Conservation of protected areas including indigenous and community conserved areas that serve as wildlife habitats and increasing the numbers of declared protected areas, are significant steps in preventing the spread of infectious and zoonotic diseases and building resilience to prevent future pandemics.
This session is designed to:
- inform the AHP managers, AHP Committee members, AWGNCB members, key stakeholders, and partners on the interlinkages of biodiversity and health; zoonotic diseases and its transmission pathways; and approaches to prevent spread of diseases and future pandemics;
- share best practices/lessons learned from Marine Protected Areas and terrestrial Protected Areas’ responses during the pandemic and identify actions to build resilience; and
- determine ways to strengthen the management of the AHPs and integrate green recovery guided by the ACRF.