Protected Areas: 5 Reasons to Respect and Promote Them
In Ecuador we have 56 protected areas managed by the National System of Protected Areas (SNAP in Spanish), which are categorized into National Parks, Marine Reserves, Ecological Reserves, Biological Reserves, Wildlife Reproduction Reserves, Wildlife Refuges, Natural Areas for Recreation, and Geobotanical Reserves. Internationally, UNESCO uses the categories Biosphere Reserve and Global Geopark. In Ecuador there are seven of the first, with the Chocó Andino de Pichincha being our most recent addition in 2018, and the Imbabura Geopark declared in 2019.
This past year we have witnessed with great sadness, how thousands of hectares of protected forests around the world have been consumed by fire. One of the most resonated fires has been that of the Amazon, with more than 170,000 ha of rainforest affected in about six months of intermittent fires in several countries of the Amazon basin. Considering that it's the most biodiverse region in the world, housing 50% of all the plants on the planet - many of which are medicinal -, and that its forests absorb tons of carbon dioxide daily, the loss is tragic for humanity.
Fires in the forests of Siberia, Alaska, Indonesia, California, Australia, among other regions, have also caused great alarm in traditional and alternative media. In Ecuador, the Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve - unique in our country and located within the Chocó Andino de Pichincha Biosphere Reserve - suffered serious damage during the dry season fires between August and September. Quilanga (Loja), Imbabura and the surroundings of Quito also suffered regrettable scourges and many of these valuable ecosystems will take several years to recover, if the climate and joint work allow it.
Unfortunately we did not went from the knowing to the taking action as fast as we could and should have. If it is possible that after the burning of the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, 800 million euros were gathered in one day for its reconstruction, we can certainly do the same to protect the world's forests if we understand their importance in our lives and that of future generations.
The year is about to end and during December a wave of inspiration and hope for new goals invades us. At Casa Divina Lodge and SabinaTour Operator we live happily knowing that we operate in Mindo, Ecuador, in the Chocó Andino de Pichincha Biosphere Reserve, where life flourishes with every breath. We promote sustainable tourism as the only way to operate in a place of such importance, and we invite you to prefer establishments that follow these guidelines wherever you go.
And next, we share with you some reasons why it’s important to love and promote protected areas in Ecuador and the world!
The main goal of protecting certain areas is the conservation of its biodiversity and the existing resources in that space. This translates into the conservation of the resources that allow us to maintain life as we know it; that is, clean sources of fresh water, edible fruits and vegetables, medicinal plants, sea food for human consumption, among others. The greater the number of protected areas and the less harmful human intervention in them, the more opportunities we have to have clean and healthy resources and food.
2. Culture and History
Much of the world's protected areas are also home to small indigenous groups that have maintained their traditions for centuries. Many of these are descendants of great civilizations whose archaeological remains are still being discovered among thick forests. Others are guardians of invaluable cultural traditions, medicinal knowledge, spiritual wisdom, languages and ancient stories that, when lost, leave an immense void in humanity.
3. Natural Disasters and Climate Change Mitigation
Natural phenomena affect millions of people around the world every year, and the loss of ecosystems is one of the main causes for them to become disasters. Coastal and mountain forests contribute greatly to soil stabilization, preventing floods and landslides in times of heavy rain, storms, hurricanes or telluric movements. Also, the amount of tons of carbon dioxide that is absorbed daily by the trees of the world, should be reason enough for all of us to want to expand forests and protected areas instead of reducing them.
4. Sustainable Tourism and Economy
It is undeniable that we live in an era in which tourism is a most desired activity, and we all have the right to take advantage of the possibility of exploring and admiring our beautiful planet. In that context, sustainable tourism is the most sensible solution to a massive flow of people who, when not acting responsibly and conscientiously, will end up destroying the world as we know it. Protected areas are a great option to moderate tourism, turning natural attractions into places where visits must be carried out under certain parameters of environmental and social responsibility. This also generates income for local communities and promotes the expansion of knowledge and the strengthening of culture.
5. Education and Research
If we can learn something from nature, it is that it is constantly evolving and that our ability to understand it remains limited. Every week science reveals new discoveries that show us that the dynamics, behaviors and interconnection of natural species and kingdoms are so fascinating and rich in wisdom and balance, that learning and imitating them could change our lives. Also, the medicinal properties of plants remain a wide world to be explored. Protected areas are a living and breathing laboratory of countless possibilities that could help us build a better future!