Life is resilient. It has persisted for more than two billion years, through five or more mass extinction crises, the most recent of which exterminated the great dinosaurs, leaving birds as their only descendants. Nature, in some form, will likely survive the rash actions of today's human societies that are based on ever-growing consumption of resources. But whether that pattern will enable modern societies to continue in their current form is not at all certain, even highly unlikely.
This book is a collection of challenges and strategies discussed at the World Conservation Congress (WCC) in Barcelona, Spain, in October 2008. The Congress theme was A Diverse and Sustainable World and discussions within the Conservation Forum focused around three broad themes (Box 1.1). The book is not meant to be comprehensive, which would have required working groups to spend months working on each chapter. Rather, we have sought to capture the essence of the issues, reflect the views of our membership, and bring in additional perspectives from the latest work in the field in an effort to catalyse conservation efforts in the coming decade.
The World Conservation Forum benefited from the active presence of participants drawn from across a wide spectrum of society including conservation organizations, indigenous and local communities, governments (local to national), and businesses. In keeping with this spirit of broad-based interest in conservation, we include actions that this expanded conservation community may consider pursuing in the future. While the chapters of this book reflect the diversity of themes discussed, it will be helpful to highlight a few overarching issues from the start, including the 2010 Biodiversity Target, the link between biodiversity and sustainable development, and achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and dealing with rapid demographic change.
Many global environmental agreements and conventions have integrated targets into their strategies and planning. Among these, the most important from the biodiversity perspective is the 2010 Biodiversity Target. The general target of reducing biodiversity loss by 2010 has been adopted in international fora from the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), albeit in somewhat different forms (Box 1.2).
The need to measure progress towards this target and beyond has stimulated the development of a framework of 17 “headline indicators” which were first reported upon in the Global Biodiversity Outlook 2 (GBO2) (CBD, 2006) (Table 1.1). GBO2 summarized the situation by noting that:
Deforestation, mainly through conversion of native forests to plantations or agricultural land, continues at an alarmingly high rate.
Trends of some 3,000 wild populations of species show a consistent decline in average species abundance of about 40% between 1970 and 2000.
More species are becoming threatened with extinction, including 12% of birds, 21% of mammals and 31% of amphibians, according to the 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
In 2006, recognizing that the science underpinning many of these indicators still required considerable attention, 24 organizations working on indicators (including IUCN) established the 2010 Biodiversity Indicators Partnership (BIP) as a global initiative to further develop and promote indicators for the consistent monitoring and assessment of biodiversity (http://www.twentyten.net/Home/tabid/38/Default.aspx).
Drawing from the information in the report plus information from the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) (2005d), the GBO2 concludes that biodiversity loss “is likely to continue for the foreseeable future, and certainly beyond 2010”. Nevertheless, GBO2 recognizes potential successes in biodiversity conservation, including:
1) at national, regional and global levels, with appropriate responses it is possible to achieve, by 2010, a reduction in the
rate of biodiversity loss for certain components of biodiversity or for certain indicators, and in certain regions;
2) the majority of the targets that the Convention has established as part of its framework for assessing progress towards
the 2010 target are achievable, provided that the necessary actions are taken; and
3) for the most part, the tools needed to achieve the 2010 target, including programmes of work, principles and
guidelines, have already been developed.
TABLE 1.1 Status and trends of biodiversity-related parameters according to the 2010 indicators
Efforts to achieve the 2010 target have been important means to set in place awareness, capacity and political will towards biodiversity conservation. The global community should build on this progress through adoption of a post-2010 framework that is visionary, achievable and measurable.
FIGURE 1.1 DYNAMIC OF ENVIRONMENT, SERVICES AND HUMAN WELL-BEING
Our environment, the services provided by ecosystems and human well-being are all the result of a complex web of interactions and responses. From a pragmatic perspective, whichever entry point into the system we use, be it species conservation or ecosystem management or supporting delivery of ecosystem services, we are ultimately talking about the same imperative: supporting the system within which we live (Figure 1.1).
In 2008, the World Bank estimated the number of people living in extreme poverty at 1.4 billion, with the majority in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. While the percentage of those living in poverty has decreased in recent years in most parts of the world, it has remained stable in sub-Saharan Africa. The World Development Report 2008 notes that poverty reduction solutions vary from region to region (World Bank, 2008). For sub-Saharan Africa, increased agricultural productivity is the key to growth while in Asia reducing the ever increasing gap between urban and rural well-being will be the key to success.
Conservationists understand the importance of nature for nature's sake. But they also recognize that biodiversity can play an essential role in supporting and improving people's livelihoods. Conservation can contribute to poverty reduction, particularly through restoring ecosystems and by improving the access of the poor to ecosystem services, thus contributing to secure livelihoods for the people who depend on them (Fisher et al., 2005). But articulating the link between biodiversity conservation and poverty reduction/development remains a challenge.
The popularization of the idea of ecosystem services (Chapter 4) by Gretchen Daly (1997) and the subsequent release of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment just under a decade later in 2005, have helped to inspire a way of thinking that promotes collaboration and cooperation among conservation and development professionals. The concept of ecosystem services highlights the important role of species conservation and ecosystem management in our day-to-day lives. By speaking of ecosystem services we are, of course, also speaking of the genes, species and ecosystems that support and deliver these services.
The clearest links between poverty reduction and ecosystem services lie with the provisioning services that support delivery of food (Chapter 20), medicines (Chapter 10), forest products (Chapter 16), and, ultimately, income (Chapter 12).
In 2008, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) (FAO, 2008c, d) reported that world hunger is increasing and that the distribution of those hungry people is focused largely on sub-Saharan Africa. The number of hungry people was estimated to be 950 million in 2008, an increase of more than 80 million since the 1990–1992 base period. Long-term estimates (available up to 2003–2005) show that some countries were well on track towards achieving MDG 1 of halving hunger by 2015 (Table 1.2). But the current period of high food prices is causing setbacks in progress, hitting the poorest, landless and female-headed households hardest.
Underlying this food insecurity, especially in Africa, are changing trends in precipitation leading to decreased productivity for small farmers who depend on rain-fed agriculture. This calls for new approaches to agriculture. Ecoagriculture is one example of an approach to land use that incorporates three main objectives – biodiversity conservation, increased agricultural productivity and sustainable rural livelihoods (McNeely and Scherr, 2003). Investing in ecosystem-based agricultural development along the lines of ecoagriculture approaches and adaptation to the impacts of climate change will be vital to solving the challenge of hunger in rural Africa (Ecoagriculture Partners, 2009). Similar approaches will be needed in other sectors; ecosystems and the technology and practice are already available to deliver forest, water, coastal and drylands conservation at landscape scales (see relevant chapters for more information).
Reliable delivery of natural resources is a source of employment (and income) for millions of people around the world. For example, globally more than 1.3 billion people were engaged in agriculture in 2002 and 34.5 million people were employed in fishing and aquaculture in 2000 (www.earthtrends.org). At the micro-scale, local natural resources represent an important portion of household incomes beyond subsistence needs. At national level, natural resources also figure large; in Tanzania the use of the environment and natural resources accounts for 66% of gross domestic product (UNEP, 2008a).
The importance of natural resources in national economies, especially in the developing world, is an important motivation for ensuring that sound environmental management is integral to national development and growth strategies. Developing country governments and development assistance agencies are already recognizing the crucial role that sound environmental management will play in successful poverty reduction action (Hansen, 2007) (Box 1.3).
The current challenge for development support is how best to incorporate the environment in the process of improving human well-being. Environmental mainstreaming needs to happen both at the planning stage and when activities are being implemented. Bojo et al. (2004) reported that the degree of mainstreaming environment in 53 poverty-reduction strategy papers reviewed was highly variable but that the overall level was improving compared to earlier reviews. As with any environmental management programme, poverty reduction efforts must include an adaptive management approach to ensure timely response to environmental and social changes.
The conservation community itself has actively debated whether and how much conservationists can really contribute to global development and poverty reduction efforts. Integrating the needs of increasingly vocal local communities into conservation projects is an additional challenge to those working in the field. Roe (2008) has summarized the evolution of the conservation/poverty reduction debate, noting that over the years the conservation and poverty reduction communities have converged and diverged. She found that some of the areas most in need of conservation actually have few people living in them, but these people are often very poor and suffer greatly if they are denied access to resources. Further, these people have often lived in the area for many generations, and the fact that the area is valuable for conservation indicates that their activities are not contradictory to conservation. On the other hand, the pressures of modern development can overcome traditional conservation and resource management practices, leading to the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services. The relationship between conservation and development in areas containing biodiversity of outstanding national or global value is highly complex, always requiring solutions specific to the site.
Table 1.2 Key links between Millennium Development Goals and the environment
|Sources: Taken from UN Millennium Project, 2005; DFID et al., 2002; UNDP, 2002|
|Millennium Development Goals||Examples of links to the environment|
Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
Achieve universal primary education
Promote gender equality and empower women
Reduce child mortality
Improve maternal health
Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
Ensure environmental sustainability
Develop a global partnership for development
In 2000, the Millennium Declaration recorded the commitment of the members of the United Nations to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger and to build a secure and peaceful world conducive to human development. Broad targets were set under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and indicators were developed to assess progress. Listing the MDGs and accompanying targets may seem to imply that these are a sort of checklist of items that can be accomplished one by one. However, it is far better to consider them as an integrated set, with progress in achieving one MDG or target depending on also achieving others. While MDG 7 is the only goal explicitly targeting the environment, achieving each of the goals will require the support of a functioning ecosystem. In turn, achieving the other MDGs will support delivery of MDG 7 (Table 1.2). As the links between the environment and human well-being become more clearly articulated, so too do the threats to both. In particular, climate change, invasive alien species and unsustainable resource use are emerging as key issues that must be addressed in both conservation and poverty reduction planning.
A review of progress towards achieving the MDGs, essentially at the halfway point between the year the targets were established and the deadline for attaining the goals themselves, reported that while some successes had been achieved, much remained to be done (UN, 2008). The report identified many issues for which “greater effort” was required, including:
The proportion of people in sub-Saharan Africa living on less than US$ 1 per day is unlikely to be reduced by the target of one-half;
About one-quarter of all children in developing countries are considered to be underweight and are at risk of having a future blighted by the long-term effects of undernourishment;
Of the 113 countries that failed to achieve gender parity in both primary and secondary school enrolment by the target date of 2005, only 18 are likely to achieve the goal by 2015;
Almost two-thirds of employed women in the developing world are in vulnerable jobs as own-account or unpaid family workers;
In one-third of developing countries, women account for less than 10% of parliamentarians;
More than 500,000 prospective mothers in developing countries die annually in childbirth or of complications from pregnancy;
Some 2.5 billion people, almost half the developing world's population, live without improved sanitation;
More than one-third of the growing urban population in developing countries lives in slum conditions;
Carbon dioxide emissions have continued to increase, despite the international timetable for addressing the problem;
Developed countries' foreign aid expenditures declined for the second consecutive year in 2007 and risk falling short of the commitments made in 2005; and
International trade negotiations are years behind schedule and any outcome seems likely to fall far short of the initial high hopes for a development-oriented outcome.
Given the important role of the environment in achieving all the MDGs, clearly greater attention to the environment is essential in efforts to achieve the MDGs.
In addition to the 2010 target and discussions about the link with sustainable development, change was a common thread linking many of the Barcelona discussions. Changes in climate, technology and human demography all affect what we do in biodiversity conservation. While climate (Chapter 5) and technology (Chapter 13) are the subjects of specific chapters, the issue of human demography is one worth exploring at the outset as it influences so many other issues.
The human population quadrupled during the 20th century, increasing from about 1.5 billion in 1900 to about 6.8 billion in 2009 (UN DESA, 2009 – Figure 1.2). This explosive population growth reached a peak of 2.1% growth rate in the late 1960s, the most significant demographic process since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Since that time, the population growth rate has fallen dramatically and, in contrast to centuries past where populations were affected by major conflicts and epidemic diseases, in today's world the fall is related to voluntary choices to limit the number of children born (Cohen, 2005).
FIGURE 1.2 HUMAN POPULATION TRENDS
Source: Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat (2009). World Population Prospects: The 2008 Revision, Highlights. New York: United Nations.
But population growth alone does not tell the whole story. As the UN DESA findings (Box 1.4) show, the proportion of elderly people in the population is increasing in some countries and from 2005 onwards they will have more people aged 60 years and older than children aged 4 years or under. That shift will be most evident in the developed world where, by 2050, one-third of the population is projected to be over 60 years old compared to only 20% in the developing world (Cohen, 2005); however, because the developing world has so many more people, this is still almost 80% of the total population of those aged 60 or older.
Other important shifts include that, as of 2007, more people lived in cities than in rural areas and as of early 2009, the majority of the world's people were classed as “middle income”, denoting new spending power and the accompanying impact of increased consumption on natural resources. The number of cities of one million or larger was 76 in 1950, 522 in 1975, 1,122 in 2000, and is set to exceed 1,600 by 2015. Using current population projections to 2050, most of the forthcoming growth in population will be in cities, with poor countries having “to build the equivalent of a city of one million people each week for the next 45 years” (Cohen, 2005).
A new demographic challenge is the emergence of “environmental migrants”, especially in response to climate change. Populations living in low-lying island nations, such as the Maldives or Tuvalu, or in vulnerable coastal areas, such as parts of Bangladesh and Florida, will pose environmental challenges as well as social, economic, and security ones.
One other perspective of population is related to number of households as opposed to number of people. Liu et al. (2003) reported that even when population numbers are stable or declining, if the number of households increases, the demands on natural resources will also increase. They report that the growth in population between 1985 and 2000 in countries with biodiversity hotspots was exceeded by the growth in the number of households, because average household size decreased (and decreased more rapidly than in non-hotspot countries), thereby posing serious challenges to natural resource management and biodiversity conservation.
Meeting the needs of these changing populations, increasing numbers of elderly people and extreme concentrations in urban areas, will inevitably have impacts on the environment. Increasingly cramped urban areas will need to expand – often into important nearby arable land, thereby limiting productivity of those lands. Demographic shifts will also mean increasing public-sector spending on healthcare and family support sectors with a potential trade-off of reducing investments in other public goods, including environmental management.
As this book explores the many challenges facing conservation today, it is helpful to keep in mind the underlying issues discussed above and how they will affect choices and actions in the coming decades.
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