Half the world must be set aside for nature, says Canadian conservationist

Originally published August 27, 2017 by CBC Radio Canada Listen to the full radio segment > Harvey Locke is a self-described “free range conservationist”. His ancestors lived in the mountains of the Bow Valley before Banff became a national park, and he still lives in the town of Banff. He happily shares his property with wildlife. It’s not rare for a grizzly bear, or a wolf, or a 700-pound elk to wander through his backyard. Locke helped lead the charge in the 1990s to link together parks and protected areas along what he calls the spinal column of North America — the Rocky Mountains. He first discovered his passion for conserving the Canadian wilderness when he was attending college and living in a mountain town in the Swiss Alps. “I was astonished over time that we didn’t see anything else that was alive there — how regulated the forests were, how the rivers were polluted, [how] the streams had all been dammed,” he tells The Sunday Edition‘s guest host David Gray. “As lovely as it was visually, it was biologically terribly impoverished. To my great personal surprise, I kind of made a vow to myself: I am not going to let that happen to the Canadian Rockies,” he recalls. The result is still a work in progress, but the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, which he helped spearhead, has led to wildlife overpasses on highways and connects habitats from the U.S. to Canada. “It was just the new scale at which we needed to practise conservation,” he explains. Continue reading the full article...

Safeguarding space for nature, securing our future

From our colleagues at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) WHEN: 27 Feb – 28 Feb 2018 WHERE: Huxley Lecture Theatre, Main Meeting Rooms, Zoological Society of London, Outer Circle, Regents Park, NW1 4RY  REGISTER: www.zsl.org/ticket/safeguarding-space-for-nature-securing-our-future-both-days We are rapidly losing Earth’s wild species and wild spaces, with global vertebrate populations set to decline by two-thirds by 2020. Under the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020, Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) have pledged to protect, by this date, at least 17% land and freshwater and 10% ocean, particularly areas of importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services, in systems of effective, equitable and ecologically connected protected and conserved areas. But is this target adequate, and, if not, what space needs to be conserved and how in order to sustain humans and the rest of life on earth? Over the next few years, governments will be reviewing the current Strategic Plan and considering a new strategy to meet the vision of conserving biodiversity and maintaining ecosystem services and a healthy planet for all by 2050, as part of the wider 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. As part of this process, this symposium will bring together international scientists, conservation practitioners, policy-makers, business leaders, civil society and donors to (1) review the science informing future area-based conservation targets, (2) evaluate the implications of various policy options, (3) provide balanced, evidence-based recommendations to Parties to the CBD and other policy processes and (4) raise awareness of the need for a more ambitious, holistic and effective strategy on space for nature, incorporating protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures.  The symposium will complement and integrate the work of other...

From Laggard to Leader?

Canada’s renewed focus on protecting nature could deliver results Originally published by Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) Executive Summary CANADA IS A COUNTRY DEEPLY CONNECTED TO NATURE. It underpins our sense of place, our well-being, and our economy. Maintaining the health of Canada’s ecosystems to sustain wildlife and people requires the creation of an extensive network of protected natural areas as the foundation for effective nature conservation strategies. This report examines Canada’s performance relative to other countries in protecting our land and freshwater, as well as progress made towards our international commitments. In 2010, as part of a worldwide effort to stem the tide of biodiversity loss, Canada committed under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity to protect at least 17% of land and inland waters by 2020 and to improve the quality of protected area systems so they conserve nature more effectively. Achieving this target is an important step towards the much larger-scale protection that is needed in the long-term to safeguard functioning ecosystems, healthy wildlife populations, and sustainable communities. The report finds that Canada currently ranks last among G7 countries, with only 10.6% of our land and freshwater protected. It also finds that we lag behind other large countries, such as Brazil (29.5% protection), China (17.1%), and Australia (17%). With all Canadian ecosystems in declining health and Canada’s list of endangered species growing each year largely due to habitat loss, urgent action is needed to protect much more of our land and inland waters. Jurisdiction over land in Canada is shared among federal, provincial, territorial, and Indigenous governments. With 90% of Canada’s land and 100%...

Accelerated modern human–induced species losses: Entering the sixth mass extinction

By: Gerardo Ceballos, Paul R. Ehrlich, Anthony D. Barnosky, Andrés García, Robert M. Pringle, Todd M. Palmer Originally published in Science Advances The oft-repeated claim that Earth’s biota is entering a sixth “mass extinction” depends on clearly demonstrating that current extinction rates are far above the “background” rates prevailing between the five previous mass extinctions. Earlier estimates of extinction rates have been criticized for using assumptions that might overestimate the severity of the extinction crisis. We assess, using extremely conservative assumptions, whether human activities are causing a mass extinction. First, we use a recent estimate of a background rate of 2 mammal extinctions per 10,000 species per 100 years (that is, 2 E/MSY), which is twice as high as widely used previous estimates. We then compare this rate with the current rate of mammal and vertebrate extinctions. The latter is conservatively low because listing a species as extinct requires meeting stringent criteria. Even under our assumptions, which would tend to minimize evidence of an incipient mass extinction, the average rate of vertebrate species loss over the last century is up to 100 times higher than the background rate. Under the 2 E/MSY background rate, the number of species that have gone extinct in the last century would have taken, depending on the vertebrate taxon, between 800 and 10,000 years to disappear. These estimates reveal an exceptionally rapid loss of biodiversity over the last few centuries, indicating that a sixth mass extinction is already under way. Averting a dramatic decay of biodiversity and the subsequent loss of ecosystem services is still possible through intensified conservation efforts, but that window of opportunity...

Nature for the People

Nature for the People: Toward a Democratic Vision for the Biosphere   Originally published by Erle Ellis in the Breakthrough Institute Read the full article here > Introductory Comments by: Ted Nordhaus, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Breakthrough Institute For over a decade, landscape ecologist Erle Ellis has marshalled an enormous trove of  archaeological, paleontological, and historical evidence to demonstrate that humans have been terraforming the Earth for many, many millennia. A planet that once could support perhaps a few million humans today supports seven billion. Humans today use over half the terrestrial planet, mostly to grow food and raise livestock but also for settlements, mining, energy, and timber production. Even the areas of the planet that haven’t been intensively managed by humans bear the signature of our presence and our impact in one way or another. In so doing, Ellis has complicated two longstanding environmental ideas. The first being the notion that human transformation of the biosphere has been a relatively recent development and the second, relatedly, that there is some scientifically discernible baseline to which nature, as distinct from humanity, might be returned. For doing so, Ellis has been demonized in some quarters, accused of counseling complacency in the face of new and catastrophic ecological threats. If human transformation of the planet is an age- old phenomena, then why worry about present-day affronts to the environment? And if there is no baseline or original state to which nature might be returned, then why bother with conservation? In a new Breakthrough Journal essay, Ellis offers a convincing case for why we should care about conservation, what it...

Progress In Canada’s Boreal Forest Shows We Can Protect Half Of Nature

Originally posted on 15 May 2017, by Jeff Wells on the Huffington Post In the midst of a steady stream of grim reports about the environment, a new study offers a welcome ray of hope. Researchers have determined that there are still hundreds of regions around the globe healthy enough to help maintain clean air and water, support rich animal and plant life and slow climate change. If we act fast, we can preserve the natural systems we all depend upon. But we have to think big. The study, released in BioScience (and co-authored by Harvey Locke), looked at what it takes to maintain clean air, safe water, vibrant biodiversity and other values that keep us humans alive and well. It concluded that we need to protect at least half of a regional landscape to have the best chance of ensuring it can still nurture plants, animals and human life. The study examined 846 eco-regions around the world and found that one-quarter have been eaten away by development and pollution and have just an average of four per cent of their natural habitat left. But the good news is more than 300 ecoregions still have enough unaltered landscape to meet the 50 per cent threshold for necessary protection and long-lasting vitality. Read the full article...
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