Natural ecosystems regulate river systems, protect crop wild relatives, filter water, store carbon, buffer shorelines, build wild fish stocks and give shelter to vulnerable human communities. Protected areas help keep ecosystems functioning and provide a management framework to ensure maximum benefits. Many protected areas also contain sacred sites and cultural artefacts, and provide people with opportunities for recreation, exercise and renewing the spirit. The specialist group focuses particularly on ecosystem services from protected areas linked to food and water security and disaster risk reduction. It maintains close links with other WCPA groups working on related ecosystem services including health, climate change and sacred values.
The group is:
- Developing its own website: this will act as an information source and forum on the role of protected areas in delivering ecosystem services
- Publishing a series of managers’ handbooks on managing protected areas for ecosystem services, the first is available on disaster risk reduction: Protected areas as tools for disaster risk reduction : a handbook for practitioners (also available in Japanese).
- Working with protected area agencies to gain greater recognition for protected areas as vehicles for mitigating and adapting to climate change, in line with the declaration by 18 Latin American countries in late 2015
- Providing technical advice to IUCN and partners as necessary
- Identifying a set of protected areas as learning sites and research sites, into their role as vehicles for providing ecosystem services