Rio+20 brings a new landscape for the protection of global roadless areas

26 June 2012 | Article

A major step towards the protection of the world's roadless areas was one of the fruits of the Rio+20 Summit. For the first time, roadless areas were mapped globally and presented to the public.

IUCN, the United Nations Environment Programme, the European Parliament's Rapporteur on Forests, MEP Kriton Arsenis, the Society for Conservation Biology (SCB), and the Indigenous Peoples' International Centre for Policy Research and Education, Tebtebba joined forces to organize an event aimed at putting the protection of roadless areas at the heart of the international environmental debate.

Two interactive maps of the world's remaining roadless areas were presented by Google and the European Environmental Agency (EEA). These maps show areas which remain insulated from the uncontrolled human pressure exerted by roads on natural resources and pave the way for global action towards the protection of biodiversity in a cost efficient and effective way.

IUCN’s Director of Global Policy, Cyriaque Sendashonga, made the connection between roadless areas and the global ‘Aichi’ targets on biodiversity that were agreed by governments in 2010.

“Roadless areas are an important contribution to reaching the Aichi Target 11 of 17% of terrestrial ecosystems under a system of protected areas. IUCN is promoting all efforts to reach this target. We are developing a number of tools to help in this endeavour, including the concept of ‘Key Biodiversity Areas’ to allow policy and decision-makers and resource managers to make choices on where to set up such conservation areas to ensure broad coverage of all important components of biodiversity."

Mariana Vale from the Society for Conservation Biology cited examples from Europe on the impacts of roads on the remaining wildlife:

“With the road network stretching through almost every corner of the planet, habitat fragmentation by transport infrastructure, and consequential secondary development, is one of the most serious global threats to biodiversity. Large patches of roadless areas are rare. They render vital ecosystem services to society like clean water, clean air, protection against invasive species, pests and diseases, and represent a buffer against climate change. Let's protect these last remaining roadless areas."

The Google Earth maps of roadless areas can be found at http://earthengine.google.org/#state=gallery

EEA's Eye on Earth maps will be publicly available soon.