NEWS | 05.08.2021

New comment in Nature: Advancing an equitable and effective conservation of biodiversity

OECMs – the acronym for “Other Effective Area-Based Conservation Measures” – are a valuable policy tool in the new global biodiversity agreement, along with the establishment of protected areas. Scientists from the field of nature conservation, as well as practitioners and policy experts, call on the member governments of the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) to consider OECMs as an important tool to advance equitable and effective conservation, as argued in a commentary published in the high-ranking journal Nature. The Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT), a member of the DAM, is involved in the study.

“Protected areas are generally defined as having a primary objective of biodiversity conservation”, says Dr. Georgina Gurney, lead author of the new Nature study and senior research fellow at the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies. “However, this can alienate people who manage areas that sustain biodiversity for different objectives, such as sustainable resource use or cultural practices.”

More than 25 experts from 14 countries working in the field of marine management and conservation, including a scientist from ZMT, have now for the first time examined the opportunities and challenges of OECMs to address the biodiversity crisis and published a commentary in the journal Nature.

“Biodiversity loss has currently reached critical levels. Protected areas are the most widely used biodiversity conservation tool. However, they alone are not enough to halt species loss,” explains co-author Estradivari, a ZMT scientist and former head of conservation research at WWF Indonesia. “OECMs can play an important complementary role. They support management that is tailored to the context and guided by local values and traditional knowledge systems.”

Protecting biodiversity – acknowledging management

What is meant by OECMs was already agreed upon by the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) at their 14th Conference in 2018. According to this, OECMs can include areas managed by indigenous peoples and local communities, but also historic shipwreck reserves, sacred groves or farmland managed at low intensity in a traditional way. Areas designated as OECMs acknowledge uses that conserve biodiversity, even if conservation is not a primary goal. Currently, however, less than 1 percent of the world’s terrestrial and freshwater environments and less than 0.1 percent of marine areas fall under the “OECM” designation.

OECMs can forge new alliances with people committed to the same interest – biodiversity conservation. These can be indigenous peoples, local communities or private initiatives. “These alliances will be critical to sustaining biodiversity, the ultimate aim of a proposed global goal to conserve at least 30 percent of the planet by 2030,” says Ravaka Ranaivoson, Marine Director of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Madagascar.

Charo Karissa, Jay-Jay, paddles on his boat in front of the Crab Shack in Mida Creek. Jay-Jay, a father of 3, relies on tourism to support his family, making on average KES1,000 (US$10) per day. Since the pandemic started, Jay-Jay has struggled to make at least half of that daily. Watamu, Kenya. Sep. 15, 2020. | Picture: Erika Piñeros
Keya’s fellow fishermen, Kiboga and his son, Mwinyihaji, pull a fishing trap out of the sea. As the owner of the boat, Kiboga, takes a larger share of their daily catch leaving Keya an average of KES500 (USD$5) per day. “I don’t have a canoe”, says Keya who explains that if he had his own canoe he would go by himself. “But I’l growing old anyway, so it’s easier for me to go with others. if there is no good communication between us, everything becomes very difficult”, he says. Shimoni, Kenya. Sep. 20, 2020. | Picture: Erika Piñeros
Mzungu attends a meeting at the Beach Management Unit (BMU) office in Mkwiro village to join a clean up session in the village. Shimoni, Kenya. Sep. 21, 2020. | Picture: Erika Piñeros
Hassan shows a tourist the resins of a native tree at the Arabuko Sokoke National Park. “I love guiding”, says Hassan. “Being a guide gives me the opportunity to see new places and meet new people. It exposes me to a different range of people that inspire to do other things I love”, he says. Watamu, Kenya. Sep. 17, 2020. | Picture: Erika Piñeros
Hassan picks up rubbish from the mangroves in front of his house as the tide goes out. Hassan started guiding as a teenager after being taught by scientists the names of local birds and chosen for training when the Boardwalk opened near Watamu. “We were trained about everything: insects, mammals, history, first aid training, everything, so we could become guides”, he says. “And because I had that interest since I was young, I kept studying by myself.” Watamu, Kenya. Sep. 17, 2020. | Picture: Erika Piñeros
Mohammed Tashwishi, boards a boat from Shimoni mainland to his village in Wasini island where more than 2,800 people rely heavily on the ocean to survive. Shimoni, Kenya. Sep. 18, 2020. | Picture: Erika Piñeros
Mohammed chats to a friend on their way to Mkwiro Village in Wasini island, where they live. As a tour operator and guide, Mohammed makes around USD$5 per day plus tips. Shimoni, Kenya. Sep. 18, 2020. | Picture: Erika Piñeros

It’s time for practical action

Biodiversity is in free fall worldwide. OECMs could be a very crucial way to contribute to species conservation beyond protected areas. In the Nature commentary, the authors provide guidance to help advance research, practice, and policy guidelines for OECMs.

“The conservation community should take the necessary steps to address key challenges in using OECMs as a policy tool,” Estradivari from ZMT says. “It’s necessary to show that they work, strengthen existing local governance, secure funding, agree on metrics, and include OECMs into other environmental agreements.”

Original publication

Gurney et al. 2021. Biodiversity needs every tool in the box: use OECMs. Nature: 646-649. DOI:


Estradivari Estradivari
Phone: +49 (0)421 23800 – 0
Mail: estradivari(at)

Header image: A local seaweed farmer works near her home in coastal Kenya. Photo: Erika Piñeros.

Seite teilen


Immer aktuell informiert mit dem DAM-Newsletter.

Our SPonsors

The federal government and the governments of the five northern German states support the current development and sponsor the DAM.