“How to pay for saving biodiversity”

Originally published by Science Magazine By Edward B. Barbier, Joanne C. Burgess, and Thomas J. Dean The 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was one of the first international environmental agreements negotiated. In the same year, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) for funding biodiversity conservation in developing countries was launched. Yet 25 years later, biological populations and diversity continue to decline both on land (1) and in the oceans (2). The main reasons are chronic underfunding of global biodiversity conservation; the lack of incentives for global cooperation; and the failure to control habitat conversion, resource overexploitation, species invasions, and other drivers of biodiversity loss. Dinerstein et al. recently called for a global deal, complementing the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement, for conserving half of the terrestrial realm for biodiversity by 2050 (3). Here, we explore how such a deal might be implemented to overcome the funding problem in biodiversity protection. Continue reading the full...

“In Defense of Biodiversity: Why Protecting Species from Extinction Matters”

Originally published by Yale Environment 360 By Carl Safina A number of biologists have recently made the argument that extinction is part of evolution and that saving species need not be a conservation priority. But this revisionist thinking shows a lack of understanding of evolution and an ignorance of the natural world. A few years ago, I helped lead a ship-based expedition along south Alaska during which several scientists and noted artists documented and made art from the voluminous plastic trash that washes ashore even there. At Katmai National Park, we packed off several tons of trash from as distant as South Asia. But what made Katmai most memorable was: huge brown bears. Mothers and cubs were out on the flats digging clams. Others were snoozing on dunes. Others were patrolling. During a rest, several of us were sitting on an enormous drift-log, watching one mother who’d been clamming with three cubs. As the tide flooded the flat, we watched in disbelief as she brought her cubs up to where we were sitting — and stepped up on the log we were on. There was no aggression, no tension; she was relaxed. We gave her some room as she paused on the log, and then she took her cubs past us into a sedge meadow. Because she was so calm, I felt no fear. I felt the gift.   Continue reading the full...

“Extinction tsunami can be avoided”

Originally published by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America By Thomas E. Lovejoy In many senses, the recent publication in PNAS by Ceballos et al. (1) on population losses and declines in vertebrates can be traced back to efforts early in the 20th century led by the American Committee for International Wildlife Protection to document the extinction phenomenon (2⇓–4). The focus at the time was very much on individual species, not on extinction rates, and certainly not on precursor population declines. It is interesting to reflect on one of the most famous extinctions caused by humans, namely, the Passenger Pigeon. The original populations were staggeringly large and so impressive that in the 1870s, the Passenger Pigeon was chosen to adorn one of the gateposts of the British Museum of Natural History in South Kensington to represent the Nearctic region. Its extinction would have seemed inconceivable, given the enormous populations and the unpredictability of nesting sites. With the advent of a predator aided by telegraph to advertise the otherwise unpredictable nesting sites and by rail to transport the harvest to markets, the populations declined and winked out one by one until all that remained was the single female Martha, which died at the Cincinnati Zoo in 1916. Basically, there was no easy way to keep track, whereas today, in contrast, not only is there an army of birdwatchers but also, in the digital age, the ability to monitor population trends by, in this case, an electronic database, e-bird. Continue reading the full...

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...

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...
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