A new study has found that the world's healthiest, most biodiverse, and most resilient forests are found in Indigenous protected areas.
This new study provides a further contribution to years of research establishing that Indigenous communities are essential to maintaining forest integrity (a metric that assesses the overall forest health, including the ability to store carbon, sustain biodiversity, preserve ecosystems, and provide social benefits).
Notably, the findings that over two-thirds of high-integrity forests have at least some human inhabitants also contradict the fortress conservation model (which holds that humans must be absent in order for biodiversity to thrive) used by conservation organizations and governments worldwide to justify the violent evictions of Indigenous peoples from their lands.
Based on these results, the paper's authors recommend bolstering support for Indigenous communities by providing greater freedom to manage their land, increasing direct funding, enhancing legal support, and strengthening programs that incentivize conservation over extractive industry.
Indigenous land contains 80 percent of the world’s remaining biodiversity of which nearly a quarter is managed by Indigenous people. According to a 2020 paper, 47 percent of threatened mammals live on, and are protected by, Indigenous land and management. When Indigenous peoples are given legal and financial support for land management, the results benefit the world.