France’s contribution to the protected areas


Why are protected areas important?

Protected areas are vital for biodiversity conservation: endangered species are protected more in parks than elsewhere.

Protected areas are key to sustainable development: protected areas provide drinking water to over a third of the world’s hundred largest cities, store the same amount of carbon as the tropical rainforests, and provide jobs and livelihoods for millions of people around the world.

Wildlife and natural habitat conservation is now a mainstay of sustainable development policies and investment programmes for the protection of biodiversity itself, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and inclusive sustainable development.

What are the targets?

The 194 States-Party to the Convention on Biological Diversity have committed to the conservation of at least 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water and 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas by 2020.

In 2014, some 209,000 protected areas covered approximately 30 million square kilometres or 15.4% of the land and 3.4% of the oceans on the planet. Protected areas can take on many different forms such as national parks, marine reserves, strict nature reserves, community conserved areas and privately owned reserves.

What are the current threats?

  • A sharp upturn in people’s needs increasing the pressure around and sometimes within the areas;
  • Protected spaces under pressure from major economic concerns (e.g. mining industries);
  • Growing global demand combined with spiralling international smuggling in products such as ivory and rhinoceros horn, which is immediately endangering these species;
  • Scarcity of natural habitats still available to connect parks and maintain vital movements of certain species;
  • Often-insufficient resources for the suitable management and supervision of areas.

It is possible to lift these obstacles and pass on a protected, well-managed nature to future generations.

What action has France taken?

A particular geopolitical responsibility

France’s geographic position on the continent and overseas, on land and sea, have given it a highly diverse natural heritage and a particular geopolitical responsibility in the biodiversity crisis nationally and worldwide.

Mainland France has among the greatest diversity of amphibians, birds and mammals in Europe. It is home to 40% of the species of flora found in Europe and over 50% of the natural habitat types of Community interest (natural terrestrial or aquatic habitats that are endangered or have a small natural range or present outstanding examples of typical characteristics of one or more of nine biogeographical regions whose conservation requires the designation of a Special Area of Conservation). The French maritime domain covers 11 million square kilometres, making it the second largest in the world. France has land and sea borders with 35 countries worldwide and a number of protected border areas are engaged in cooperation actions to gradually set up transboundary protected areas. French overseas local authorities represent 16 ecologically homogeneous areas covering 10% of the world’s coral reefs and lagoons and 20% of the planet’s atolls. Of the world’s 34 designated biodiversity hot spots, five land hotspots and two marine hotspots are in France. A biodiversity hotspot is a geographic area with at least 1,500 endemic plant species that has already lost at least 70% of its original natural vegetation. Hotspots represent just 2.3% of the Earth’s land surface. Currently, 34 areas are hotspots. Over 50% of the world’s endemic plant species and 42% of terrestrial vertebrates live in these hotspots.

French action in France

In 2004, in keeping with its commitments under the Convention on Biological Diversity, France launched its National Biodiversity Strategy (NBS) to mainstream biodiversity in all public policies. The strategy was revised in 2011 to factor in the new targets adopted internationally in 2010 (Strategic Plan 2011-2020 – Aichi Targets).

The French strategy for 2011-2020 is designed to produce a deeper commitment by all players at all levels, in mainland France and overseas, to achieve the adopted targets. It sets a common ambition to conserve, restore, strengthen and develop biodiversity and to ensure its fair, sustainable use. To this end, a bill for the restoration of biodiversity, nature and landscapes was tabled in Parliament. It was adopted on its first reading by the French National Assembly on 24 March 2015 and will go on for a reading at the French Senate in the first half of 2016. The bill is set out to mitigate the impacts of human activities on biodiversity to achieve the target of “living in harmony with nature” set by the Convention on Biological Diversity.

France has developed a wide range of tools to protect natural habitats and has tasked different administrative levels and players with setting up and managing them. Having a range of tools is an asset since tools can be matched to local situations and different conservation objectives.

With the launch of its strategy to create land protected areas and marine protected areas, France has managed to place 20% of its land habitats and 16% of its marine habitats under protected status. In 2015, land protected areas cover 28.64% of overseas France and 1.35% of mainland France. Today, 16.52% of all French marine habitats are protected.

At the same time, France has developed a fully-fledged professional sector to work on its protected habitats conservation policy: the ecological engineering sector working on the restoration of watercourses, maintenance of natural habitats and biodiversity conservation in planning projects.

French action worldwide

France is signatory to the major global conservation agreements on biodiversity (Convention on Biological Diversity), ecosystems (Ramsar Wetlands Convention) and species (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling and Convention on Migratory Species).

Given that France spans different continents and oceans, it is party to numerous regional agreements for the protection of terrestrial biodiversity (Bern Convention and Alpine Convention) and marine biodiversity (Regional Seas Conventions).

France also takes part in multilateral natural heritage protection programmes, such as the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI), and contributes to the major European networks of managers of protected areas.

France is putting a growing share of its international official development assistance into biodiversity (see the National Biodiversity Observatory website). The French Agency for Development (AFD) and the French Global Environment Facility (FGEF) are the two pillars in this as they finance a wide range of projects (creation of protected areas and support for their effective, efficient management, mainstreaming natural capital in local land management and local development and management of pastoral land, support for sustainable forest and sea harvesting, and promotion of natural product sectors).

France is working on scaling up environmental action by African civil society with French support for a number of capacity-building programmes, especially France’s funding of the FGEF’s Small-Scale Initiatives Programme (SSI) launched in 2005 and the French contribution to the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) set up in 2007.

In 2005, France set up a unique partnership with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the world’s largest nature conservation organisation, to respond to the global biodiversity crisis and work together for nature and development.

The main tracks of this partnership are:

  • Respond to the current nature crisis on the African continent (see the Program on African Protected Areas and Conservation);
  • Do more to protect the oceans, islands and overseas territories;
  • Provide new scientific knowledge;
  • Improve global governance of natural resources.