Indigenous peoples are crucial for conservation
- Some 87 countries around the world, on every inhabited continent, have people who identify as Indigenous and contain land that is still owned, managed or influenced by Indigenous people.
- 40% of lands listed by national governments around the world as being managed for conservation are Indigenous lands.
- Indigenous Peoples manage or have tenure rights over at least ~38 million km2
Understanding the scale, location and nature conservation values of the lands over which Indigenous Peoples exercise traditional rights is central to implementation of several global conservation and climate agreements. However, spatial information on Indigenous lands has never been aggregated globally. Here, using publicly available geospatial resources, we show that Indigenous Peoples manage or have tenure rights over at least ~38 million km2 in 87 countries or politically distinct areas on all inhabited continents. This represents over a quarter of the world’s land surface, and intersects about 40% of all terrestrial protected areas and ecologically intact landscapes (for example, boreal and tropical primary forests, savannas and marshes). Our results add to growing evidence that recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ rights to land, benefit sharing and institutions is essential to meeting local and global conservation goals. The geospatial analysis presented in this article indicates that collaborative partnerships involving conservation practitioners, Indigenous Peoples and governments would yield significant benefits for conservation of ecologically valuable landscapes, ecosystems and genes for future generations.