Nature Needs Half in the Economist

Boreal blues – In the frigid north tension grows between conservation and development CANADA’S vast boreal zone contains the world’s largest intact old-growth forest and has more fresh water than the Amazon. Its flora help to slow climate change and it is a breeding ground for 3 billion migratory songbirds. Only 12% of the region is now formally protected, well below the 50% scientists say is necessary to save its ecosystem. On May 9th Quebec unveiled the Plan Nord, a C$2.1 billion ($2.2 billion) proposal that seeks both to develop its northern region and to safeguard its environment. But whether those two objectives are actually compatible remains open for debate. Continue reading...

A New Climate for Conservation: Nature, Carbon and Climate in British Columbia

A New Climate for Conservation: Nature, Carbon and Climate Change in British Columbia (Dr. Jim Pojar) explores the role of nature conservation in a climate action strategy for ecological adaptation (Part 1) and ecological mitigation (Part 2), with the key recommendation to develop a comprehensive and integrated Nature Conservation and Climate Action Strategy for the Province of British Columbia (Part 3): Part 1 presents available science on current climate-change projections, and present and future impacts of climate change to ecosystems, species, genotypes, and the processes linking them. The review focuses primarily on forested systems, and also addresses non-forest and aquatic systems. Ecosystem resilience and adaptation options, in relation to climate change, are outlined. Current thinking in conservation science is then summarised in light of external pressures. B.C.’s existing conservation planning and forestry management are reviewed in terms of their ability to respond to the challenges of climate change. Part 2 summarises literature on natural capital, ecosystem services and the role of ecosystems in climate change mitigation. Variations in carbon sequestration and storage in different ecosystems are discussed and research gaps in forest carbon dynamics are identified. Current opportunities for an off set market through carbon activities such as avoided degradation, ecological restoration and improved forest management are also explored, in light of recent pilot projects in B.C. Part 3 integrates the fi ndings from Part 1 and Part 2 in a central recommendation—to develop a comprehensive and integrated provincial Nature Conservation and Climate Action Strategy. To be efficient, this strategy must combine nature conservation and carbon/climate management planning. To be effective, it must embrace the fundamental role of conserving...

Reserves: How Much Is Enough and How Do We Get There From Here?

(Essay) Reserves: How Much Is Enough and How Do We Get There From Here? By John Terborgh, Duke University Is the human species doing enough to conserve the rest of the world’s species for posterity? If not, then how much is enough? This is a key question, and opinions about the correct answer vary widely. An industry spokesperson is likely to ask, “Don’t they (the conservationists) have enough already?” “How much do they want, anyway?” This is a typical but inappropriate response, first, because the issue is really a scientific one, and second, because it puts conservationists in the awkward position of having to say that reserving a certain amount of habitat will be sufficient to save nature. The only correct answer from a scientific standpoint is, “all of it.” That is how much of Earth was available to nature before modern man entered the picture. Since then, at least half of Earth’s terrestrial environment has been degraded or completely transformed to support the human enterprise. We know that half or more of Earth’s native habitat cannot be eliminated without endangering large numbers of species. In fact, more than 100 species have gone extinct in the U.S. alone since the Endangered Species Act (ESA) was approved by Congress. An additional 1200+ species are currently listed as endangered, and an even larger number of unlisted candidate species lurks in the background. This should be warning enough that humans are pushing our luck in preempting Earth’s resources for ourselves. Thus, the best answer to the question, “How much do they want?” is “Everything that is left.” Admittedly, this is a tall...

Rethinking Global Biodiversity Strategies

Summary ‘Rethinking Global Biodiversity Strategies’ Exploring structural changes in production and consumption to reduce biodiversity loss Improving prospects for future global biodiversity requires rethinking the strategic orientation from common policies and measures towards structural changes in production and consumption of goods and services. Significant and lasting improvements in the downward biodiversity trend will have to come from changes in human activities including agriculture, forestry, fishing, and energy use. Enhanced ‘eco-efficiency’ (that is: producing with lower ecological impact per unit output) could slow down biodiversity loss by reducing the expansion of agricultural land; stemming overexploitation of terrestrial and ocean ecosystems; and limiting climate change. An ambitious, comprehensive and cross-sector strategy would cut the rate of biodiversity decline up to 2050 by half, compared to what was projected without any new policies. Measures in the combination explored include an expanded protected area network, more efficient agriculture and forestry, improved forest management, less meat intensive diets and limiting climate change. By design the combination of options contributes to other goals such as mitigating climate change and improving food security. Human development increases demand for food, timber and other goods and services with direct consequences for the extent of natural areas. In addition, economic activities put a range of pressures on both natural and cultivated land, including climate change, air pollution, encroachment and disturbance. Most of these pressures are not directly relieved by conservation and protection, but by structural changes in production and consumption. More traditional biodiversity policies focus on conservation and protection measures. Expanded and intensified measures continue to be important, for example in protecting ecosystems and selected species, and also in...

Think Big!

An editorial in Nature (January 2011), encourages us to “Think Big” about conservation, parks and species. We couldn’t agree more.  Thinking and planning at a landscape scale – including legal protected areas like National Parks and Forests and corridors and other designated (formal or informal) natural lands – is perhaps our best chance to keep ecosystems functioning and species alive in the face of global climate change.   This editorial speaks so clearly to why Nature Needs Half is timely, important and necessary for the function of all natural areas, from our local park to the planet as a whole. Here is a brief excerpt from the editorial, and we encourage you to read the full editorial, Think Big > …”Scaling up is reassuring. At the park level, climate change may extirpate a species. At the landscape level, climate change merely moves it. And scaling up is more effective. Ecologists and conservation biologists have known for decades that small isolated parks leak species. Smaller populations have smaller gene pools in which maladaptive traits are more likely to become fixed. Smaller populations are more vulnerable to drought, pests, hard winters or simple bad luck. This is why conservation biologists, since at least the early 1990s, have called for parks to be connected to one another by unbroken corridors of nature, through which large species can move. For small mobile species, such as birds and insects, a stepping-stone scatter of protected areas close to one another has much the same effect. Climate change makes such connectivity even more important, as species challenged by the changing climate will need big gene pools to...

The Far North Act, 2009

An Act With Respect To Land Use Planning and Protection in the Far North On June 2, 2009, Natural Resources Minister Donna Cansfield introduced proposed legislation that would permanently protect at least half of the Far North of Ontario in a network of conservation lands and allow for sustainable development of the region’s natural resources. The proposed Far North Act, 2009 would enable a community-based land use planning process that gives First Nations in the Far North a leadership role in determining areas to be protected. Community-based planning would also identify where sustainable development of natural resources such as forests, minerals and renewable energy may take place. Under the planning process, sustainable development must benefit local First Nations and take into consideration ecological and cultural values. To support community-based land use planning, the proposed legislation will ensure the creation of a Far North Land Use Strategy that includes mapping of ecological and cultural values, and policy statements on matters of provincial interest. By protecting at least 225,000 square kilometres – an area three times the size of Lake Superior – the proposed legislation would safeguard habitat for more than 200 sensitive species. Protecting such a vast area would also ensure the boreal landscape continues to fight the effects of global climate change by maintaining its capacity to absorb and store carbon from the air. During the summer, the Ministry of Natural Resources will be conducting outreach sessions on the proposed legislation across the Far North.  Read more...
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