Indigenous-managed lands have the greatest biodiversity, says UBC-led study

Adopting Indigenous practices could help improve traditional conservation efforts


RICCARDO CHIARINI / UNSPLASH

As human activities such as deforestation, overfishing, and emitting greenhouse gases continue to devastate the planet, the forecast is bleak for its species. More than one million types of plants and animals worldwide are currently facing extinction: a number that is between 1,000 and 10,000 times greater than the natural rate.

A new UBC-led study suggests that Indigenous-managed lands may play a critical role in helping species survive.

Researchers sampled land and species data from three of the world’s biggest countries—Canada, Australia, and Brazil. The study was the first to compare biodiversity and land management on such a broad geographic scale.

The scientists discovered that the total numbers of birds, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles were all greatest on lands managed or co-managed by Indigenous communities.

The second highest numbers of species were present in protected areas like parks and wildlife reserves, with the least amount of biodiversity apparent in randomly selected areas that were not protected.

“This suggests that it’s the land-management practices of many Indigenous communities that are keeping species numbers high,” said lead author Richard Schuster, the Liber Ero Postdoctoral Fellow at Carleton University, who undertook the research while at UBC. “Going forward, collaborating with Indigenous land stewards will likely be essential in ensuring that species survive and thrive.” MORE