The rollout of vaccines globally, particularly as this effort picks up momentum, is spreading hope that countries will soon have control over the devastating health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Countries still, though, have a long path to travel for economic recovery. The pandemic has led to a deep global recession in which much economic activity has declined, including in the hard-hit tourism sector. In tourism-dependent economies in Africa and the Caribbean, for example, GDP is projected to shrink by 12 percent.

The economic toll is occurring at a time when biodiversity is imperiled, globally. The 2020 Living Planet Index reported a 68 percent average decline in birds, amphibians, mammals, fish, and reptiles since 1970; one-third of the world's terrestrial, and two-thirds of its marine, protected areas are under threat from human impact.

Protected areas are not only key to any global effort to conserve biodiversity, they are also crucial to address climate change and achieve sustainable development goals.

A version of this article appears in the print on August 12 2021, of The Himalayan Times.