WHY IS IT CALLED A WORLD PARK IF IT EXCLUDES SOME PLACES?
The Park’s focus, and the rationale for the alignment of its trails, comes from the locations of the world’s biological hotspots. There is no way to incorporate all 35 hotspots into a single trail system, so we have reduced it to three major routes. These three trails (the Pat-aska, the Aus-roc and the Tur-ibia) involve 26 of 35 hotspots.
WHAT IS A BIODIVERSITY HOTSPOT?
Biodiversity hotspots are regions of the world recognized by the global scientific and conservation community as containing an exceptional and irreplaceable diversity of life that is threatened with extinction. The cultural equivalent to destroying these landscapes is akin to bulldozing the world’s libraries and burning all the books. The way to save these places is to formally place them under protection and learn to better manage land so economic functions can co-exist.
WHICH HOTSPOTS ARE NOT INCLUDED?
Southwest Australia, Madagascar, The Western Ghats and Sri Lanka, The Philippines, Japan, the Cerrado and Atlantic Forest, the Caribbean Islands and the Guinean Forests of West Africa. There is, however, no reason why these hotspots and their respective nations couldn’t be part of the World Park by planning regional spur trails and associated landscape restoration projects.
THE WORLD PARK IS LARGELY ABOUT ACHIEVING LANDSCAPE CONNECTIVITY. WHAT IS LANDSCAPE CONNECTIVITY, AND WHY DOES IT MATTER?
Landscape connectivity means landscapes that have continuous tracts of habitat. What a road system is say to a city, connected corridors of habitat are to most other species. Humans have excelled at creating connectivity for themselves—rail, roads, telecommunications— but all this has taken place at the expense of animal and plant movement. Landscape connectivity allows species to migrate into new different territory to not only expand their populations but also adapt to the changes that are being driven by climate change. We live in a time where plants and animals and even humans are on the move to try and stay within the climate bandwidths they find most favorable. Locking species within isolated fragments of protected habitat limits the adaptive capacity of these species and is not a viable long term solution to biodiversity loss.
HOW MUCH LAND IS INVOLVED IN ACHIEVING CONNECTIVITY?
The optimal width of landscape corridors to achieve connectivity depends on where you are and what species you are most concerned about enabling. The science is not definitive. One of the main tasks of the World Park is to analyze all its potential territory with regard to what will achieve the highest connectivity for the least expenditure. As a rule of thumb however a landscape corridor needs some bulk – say at a minimum twice as wide as Central Park – so about 2km wide. We shouldn’t necessarily think of connectivity as a single, linear system; in some cases it can be more like stepping stones and networks with different dimensions that which weave their way through other land uses.
HOW MUCH LAND NEEDS TO BE RESTORED AROUND THE TRAILS TO ACHIEVE CONNECTIVITY?
We have proposed a 1km-wide buffer zone on either side of the trail as a minimum. However, every site’s ecological, cultural, and ownership conditions are different, so the width of this protected corridor will vary. And because the trails connect existing protected areas, the restored land will be vastly wider in these places.
ARE THERE ANY PRECEDENTS FOR THIS?
All over the world, governments, conservation organizations, and communities are working together to restore depleted ecosystems. The World Park concept simply takes this activity to a new and interconnected scale, one truly commensurate with the crisis of species extinction and landscape degradation we are facing. Long distance trails through wilderness areas have a history of helping people see the relevance of these restoration goals, from the Appalachian Trail in the northeastern USA to the Great Himalaya Trail through India and Nepal. As for balancing conservation, recreation, and commercial land interests, the Y2Y (Yellowstone to Yukon) project in North America and Canada is an effort to achieve connectivity over a vast territory with competing land use interests. Active since 1993, the Y2Y involves the ongoing creation of 2,000 miles of wild lands over 500,000 square miles of territory. The Great Green Wall across sub-Saharan Africa is another important example. As has been the case with these precedents, the World Park Project would rely on a collection of expert ecologists, local actors, and landscape architects, who are able to plan and design landscapes to support these multiple agendas.
WHAT IS THE PROJECT’S ECOLOGICAL VALUE?
The World Park is the largest coherent effort to restore the ecological health of degraded land ever undertaken. This can have big impacts in regard to biodiversity, soil and water management and carbon sequestration. But this is not just another ‘saving nature’ program; by restoring degraded land, the World Park’s ecological value will be passed on to the global community and, more specifically, the communities who live in and around the Park.
HOW DOES THIS PROJECT RELATE TO OTHER BIG CONSERVATION INITIATIVES?
The World Park Project is envisioned as an addition to, and not a replacement for, current conservation initiatives. Its global interconnected nature and its structure is designed to attract and redistribute investment in a manner that maximizes conservation dollars. There could additionally be synergies between the World Park Project and other globally-scaled conservation efforts; for example, the One Trillion Trees initiative.
WHO WILL BE IN CHARGE OF THIS PROJECT?
While the Word Park as a global entity is intended to bring resources to bear from the top down, the landscape restoration projects between existing fragments of protected area must be designed and constructed from the bottom up, with local and Indigenous people as leaders and partners. The project is not about imposing a certain landscape aesthetic or scientific worldview, but rather generating opportunities to coordinate and connect environmental restoration projects on a global scale. While the World Park Project can offer the funding and labor to achieve this, its ultimate aim is to empower local landholders, governments, planners, and ecologists to determine landscape restoration solutions that are specific to each site, ecosystem, and culture.
WHO ARE THE BENEFICIARIES OF THE PROJECT?
The beneficiaries of this project are the nations and communities directly receiving the park’s ecosystem services and associated job opportunities and tourism. Large numbers of people (World Park Rangers) employed in the park’s ecological restoration projects and ongoing management will also be beneficiaries. The individuals who walk its trails will benefit directly from the Park, as well. However, since the World Park protects and enhances biodiversity and sequesters carbon at a planetary scale, all of us are effectively beneficiaries.
WHO WILL USE THE WORLD PARK?
The World Park is for walkers and cyclists from around the world. The trails would attract a wide spectrum of people to parts, if not all, of their length. Given the fact that this is a trail network, the entirety of each trail would not be fully accessible to all people, but parts of the trail would be easily accessed by people with limited mobility. The Park’s trails could also serve as a stage for international athletic events, such as ultramarathons or long-distance cycling competitions. The Park lands would of course also be used by the millions of nonhuman species, and maintained by the World Park Rangers. The World Park Rangers program would be expected to attract youth in the same way that the Peace Corps and Conservation Corps do.
WHAT KIND OF TRAILS WILL THE WORLD PARK CREATE?
Some large sections of the trails, particularly the Pat-aska are already existing. These trails and the proposed new trails will need to be reviewed in terms of their performance and their design details. Whereas aspects of the camps and certainly the signage can be standardized, the trails cannot. Their construction to be responsive to local conditions. Providing investment, it would be desirable to upgrade existing trails and build new ones to suit both hiking and cycling.
HOW WILL IT BE BUILT?
The construction and maintenance of the park is implemented by the World Park’s project teams in association with local communities and indigenous custodians using a 4-phase process of Consultation, Design, Implementation and Monitoring. The first phase is the creation of continuous trails and rudimentary campsites. Simultaneously, a thorough landscape analysis of the territory needs to be undertaken – an inventory of its ecological conditions. From this the individual restoration projects can be prioritized, and their designs made with specific regard to local ecological and cultural conditions. To start specific restoration projects the campsites initially used just to service hikers on the trail would expand to become work depots and nurseries and accommodation for the workforce. In some instances, where beneficial, these functions could also be absorbed by local, existing settlements.
HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE TO CONSTRUCT IN FULL?
The nature of this project is such that it probably doesn’t ever really end per se. This is about the ongoing stewardship of the land. There is a lot to learn and a lot to do. That said, it might help to have a target deadline of 2050 for the trails, the campsites and some key demonstration restoration projects in each of the 26 hotspots the park incorporates.CAN IT MAKE MONEY?Not profit in a conventional sense. But if one were to calculate the health benefits of walking and the ecosystem services of land restoration then it can certainly add up. The economic value of conservation is notoriously hard to measure but insofar as ‘nature-based capital’ is entering mainstream economic analyses then the World Park’s benefits could presumably be calculated over a certain time frame. There would of course be a trickle of tourist dollars into local economies from tourists walking its trails.
WHO IS FUNDING THE CONCEPT DEVELOPMENT NOW?
This is unfunded research being conducted through the McHarg Center at the Weitzman School of Design at the University of Pennsylvania.
HOW WILL YOU KNOW IF THE CONCEPT SUCCEEDS?
The project will have succeeded if, in 50 years, the World Park’s trails are continuous, accessible, and as much a part of our consciousness as Yosemite and Yellowstone now are. As much as a boon it would be for humans to walk on trails from Alaska to Patagonia, from Australia to Morocco and from the Cape of Good Hope to Iran, that other species may pass through more or less seamless habitat will give the world’s biodiversity of organisms a chance at resisting extinction. The World Park brings together human activity, ecology, and economics, and the project will succeed when all three of these are able to thrive.
HOW IS THE PROJECT GOING TO GET STARTED?
The next step is to bring together a representative group of potential stakeholders and champions and then subject the concept to further discussion and analysis. If this project exists to serve the world, we’ll need the world’s help.