Territories of life at the land-sea interface: recovering land-sea connections in the context of area-based conservation
Too often across the globe terrestrial and marine environments are governed as separate jurisdictions within the nation state. This separation in governance creates fragmented land-seascapes, undermines local authority and decision making processes, and limits access to coastal and marine resources. Governance and management of resources and conservation regimes at the land-sea interface typically fail to integrate information from multiple natural realms in a comprehensive manner. This marine and terrestrial binarism, implemented by modern states, disregards and disrupts the continuity and fluidity of coastal human and non-human ecologies and cultures. Instead seas and oceans are often reduced to an empty space with no customary territoriality, a space for resource exploitation, economic gain and exertion of state power. This fragmentation at the land-sea interface is caused by regulations set at varying scales. At the highest level, the1982 regulations mandated by the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) designates a universal 12nm territorial sea and 200nm Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) for each nation state to the multiple national, regional and provincial regulations that interrupt the inherent connectedness of nature and culture in coastal ecosystems.
This manuscript responds to an urgent need for collaborative tools and methodologies that can bring attention to the injustices and disruptions resulting from the jurisdictional fragmentation of territories of life (or territories of Indigenous peoples and local communities/ICCAs) at the land-sea interface on a global scale. To achieve lasting change in conservation policy, deep leverage points, such as worldviews and disruptions to them, should be addressed. The concept of ICCAs first emerged in the late 1990s as a response to the growing recognition that many of the world's most biodiverse and ecologically important areas are located on lands and waters managed by Indigenous peoples and local communities. At the time, many conservation organizations focused primarily on protected areas, which were often established without the involvement or consent of local communities and, in some cases, resulted in the displacement of Indigenous peoples from their ancestral lands.
In response to this situation, a growing number of Indigenous peoples and local communities began to advocate for the recognition and support of their traditional lands and waters as a means of protecting their cultures, livelihoods, and the natural resources on which they depend. They argued that their territories are not only important for biodiversity conservation but also for the cultural and spiritual values that they embody, which are closely tied to their traditional knowledge systems, customary laws, and governance structures. The concept of ICCAs, or territories of life, has continued to evolve over time as a result of the ongoing efforts of Indigenous peoples, local communities, and their allies to protect and revitalize their traditional lands and waters. In this manuscript we will discuss recovering land-sea connections of Indigenous peoples and local communities in the context of territories of life. We apply the concept of territories of life as the principal vehicle for describing governance structures that elude the terrestrial and marine dichotomy.