Spatial Overview of the Global Importance of Indigenous Lands for Conservation

A new global study quantified the geographical extent of indigenous peoples' management of lands and assessed their significance to the landscapes and ecosystems.
Spatial comparison of Indigenous Peoples’ and other lands (Figure 2)

John E. Fa from CIFOR participated in a global study assessing the importance of indigenous lands for conservation in a spatially-explicit way.  The study found that more than 25% of the world’s land is managed by indigenous people, indicating the importance of establishing the collaborative partnerships involving conservation practitioners, indigenous peoples, and governments to yield significant benefits for conservation of ecologically valuable landscapes and ecosystems.

Understanding the scale, location, and nature conservation values of the lands over which Indigenous Peoples exercise traditional rights is central to the 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 are 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.

Garnett, Stephen T., Neil D. Burgess, John E. Fa, Álvaro Fernández-Llamazares, Zsolt Molnár, Cathy J. Robinson, James EM Watson et al. “A spatial overview of the global importance of Indigenous lands for conservation.” Nature Sustainability 1, no. 7 (2018): 369.