Tag Archives: biodiversity

Impacts of Geoengineering on Biodiversity

The Convention on Biological Diversity just released a report [PDF] put together by their Liaison Expert group on geo-engineering and biodiversity. The report – to which I have contributed as one of several lead authors – brings together peer-reviewed literature on expected impacts of a suite of geoengineering technologies, on biodiversity and ecosystem services. The last chapter also elaborates social, economical and ethical dimensions as they relate to the technologies’ impacts on biodiversity. Key messages include:

10. There is no single geoengineering approach that currently meets all three basic criteria for effectiveness, safety and affordability.  Different techniques are at different stages of development, mostly theoretical, and many are of doubtful effectiveness. Few, if any, of the approaches proposed above can be considered well-researched; for most, the practicalities of their implementation have yet to be investigated, and mechanisms for their governance are potentially problematic.  Early indications are that several of the techniques, both SRM [Solar Radiation Management, my addition] and CDR [Carbon Dioxide Removal, my addition], are unlikely to be effective at the global scale.
42. Geoengineering raises a number of questions regarding the distribution of resources and  impacts within and among societies and across time. Access to natural resources is needed for some geoengineering techniques. Competition for limited resources can be expected to increase if land-based CDR techniques emerge as a competing activity for land, water and energy use. The distribution of impacts (both positive and negative) of SRM geoengineering is unlikely to be uniform – neither are the impacts of climate change itself. (Section 6.3.4)

Green light for IPBES

UN agreed to establish the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

IPBES write hopefully on their homepage

This is a major event in the world of biodiversity and ecosystem services as the IPCC-like platform will bridge the gulf between the wealth of scientific  knowledge on the accelerating declines and degradation of the natural world, with knowledge on effective solutions and decisive government action required to reverse these damaging trends.

Persepctives on Convention on Biological Diversity meeting in Nagoya

Eight perspectives on the recent Convention on Biological Diversity meeting in Nagoya.

1. Environmental economist Charles Perrings interviewed by Earth and Sky on his recent Science article 20 Biodiversity targets for 2020:

Charles Perrings: The rate of species decline is increasing, not reducing. And it’s across the board. It’s not just the charismatic megafauna [large animals] that attract the most attention – but a range of species extending across the board.

The new targets follow the acronym ‘SMART’ – meaning, specific, measurable, ambitious, realistic, and time-bound.

Charles Perrings: We’re arguing that it’s important that they not only be SMART but they also be relevant. The targets need to speak to the real interests people have got in ecosystem services and the biodiversity that’s needed to support these services. The targets need to recognize trade-offs between interests.

For example, Perrings said, one of the targets states, “Areas under agriculture, aquaculture, and forestry are managed sustainably, ensuring conservation of biodiversity.” He pointed out that the primary interests of food production and forestry are to feed and shelter people. Those basic human needs will likely overshadow the intent of conserving biodiversity.

Charles Perrings: It’s important to acknowledge that no matter how efficient we make agriculture, it’s almost certain that an expanding human population is going to involve further loss of habitat for other species. We claim that the trade-off should be addressed directly.

He said that in contrast to the 2010 target, it’s important that 2020’s targets are achievable, and that they go along with a set of indicators that can measure the progress towards success. But due to the trade offs, Perrings writes in the paper, “It may not be possible to meet all of the 2020 targets.”

2. Outcomes of the Nagoya meeting  (non-final version from CBD)

The documents provided below are advanced unedited texts reflecting the decisions as adopted on the basis of the documents presented to Plenary (the “L.” document available as in-session documents) and any amendments made during the closing Plenary session. They have not been formally edited. The final official versions of the decisions will be issued as part of the report of the meeting in due course. Statements made by Parties at the time of the adoption of the decision will also be included in the report.

3. Science Insider quotes our colleague Thomas Elmqvist and reports:

…the strategic plan sets 20 specific targets to achieve by 2020. Key targets include conserving in protected zones at least 17% of the world’s terrestrial and inland water areas and 10% of coastal and marine areas, halving the rate of loss of all natural habitats, including forests, and preventing the extinction of known threatened species.

Other targets call for eliminating subsidies harmful to biodiversity, managing fisheries sustainably, and minimizing anthropogenic pressures on coral reefs.

… Negotiators also agreed to increase funding to support the efforts of the strategic plan, though specific targets for percentages or amounts are to be worked out by the time of the COP 11 meeting, scheduled for 2012 in New Delhi, India.The third key agreement is a new protocol to ensure that benefits flow back to countries and indigenous peoples who supply genetic resources that are commercialized. Developing countries had wanted the provisions of the access and benefit-sharing protocol to apply retroactively. They had also hoped for the agreement to specifically assign responsibility for tracking the use of genetic materials to patent offices, research universities, scientific journals, and other “checkpoints.” Retroactivity was stripped from the final text, though the agreement now calls for the investigation of a “global multilateral benefit-sharing mechanism” to address cases where plant or animal resources were commercialized prior to the new agreement. And how to enforce compliance will be left up to each country. “It is not the text we would write ourselves, but it is a good compromise,” says Paulino Franco de Carvalho, head of the Brazilian delegation.

Among other business, delegates agreed to call for a moratorium on geoengineering schemes and to endorse a request to the United Nations General Assembly to create an Intergovernmental Science-policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services that would produce scientific assessments on biodiversity issues much as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change works on the science of climate change. “We’re quite excited about this, it’s really needed,” says Thomas Elmqvist, an ecologist at Stockholm University and a member of the Swedish delegation.

4. Reflection on Nagoya from CGIAR in  Biodiversity International welcomes Nagoya Protocol

Emile Frison, Director General of Biodiversity International, which has represented the Consortium of international agricultural research centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) in all the negotiations leading up to the adoption of the Nagoya Protocol, was jubilant.

“The Protocol addresses issues that have pitted countries of the North and South against one other for decades. Its adoption should act as a balm on old wounds. It will help to create transparency and trust between countries, and trust is absolutely essential for countries to cooperate in using genetic resources in ways that promote food security and economic development.”

The adoption of the Nagoya Protocol  has ended six years of hard-scrabble negotiating. At issue were the conditions under which countries will provide access to genetic resources within their boundaries, the kinds of benefits that should be shared when those resources are used, and how far countries will cooperate with one another when there are allegations of illegal uses.

5. From IUCN:

“We’ve seen history in the making here in Nagoya with a landmark agreement now in place that defines the future for life on earth,” says Julia Marton-Lefèvre, IUCN Director General. “Here in Japan the international community have moved closer to the realisation that it’s time we stopped considering nature as expendable, and any related expenditure a write-off – it’s time we valued and conserved nature.”

The stakes have been high at the Nagoya conference. The latest IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™, released two days ago, showed that nature’s very backbone is at risk – with a third of species assessed seriously threatened and many among them facing the risk of extinction. The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity study, known as TEEB, warns us that many of the benefits of nature that we have been taking for granted and enjoyed for free up until now are at risk of running out. The Global Biodiversity Outlook 3 showed that we are on the verge of catastrophic and irreversible tipping points.

“What we’ve decided at this meeting will change the future of life on Earth – and many solutions are available to us,” says Jane Smart, Director of IUCN’s Biodiversity Conservation Group. “We know that targeted conservation action works. Results from the latest Red List show us that the status of biodiversity would have declined by an additional 20 percent at least, if conservation action had not been taken.”

6. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) welcomes:

the adoption of an international agreement that aims to halve the dramatic loss of ecosystems and species by 2020, and to establish ground rules for sharing and accessing the world’s genetic resources.

… Sustainable management of biodiversity and ecosystem services is essential to achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and to combating poverty.

UNDP is committed to scale up its biodiversity work to help meet the Aichi Targets and to assist countries with improving management of their ecosystems.

Billions of people depend on natural ecosystems for their water supply as well as for food, medicines and other essentials.

7. The World Bank Launches Scheme To Green Government Accounts promotes ‘green’ national accounts:

The five-year pilot project backed by India, Mexico and other nations aims to embed nature into national accounts to draw in the full benefits of services such as coastal protection from mangroves or watersheds for rivers that feed cities and crops.

…”For economic ministries in particular, it’s important to have an accounting measure that they can use to evaluate not only the economic value but the natural wealth of nations,” Zoellick told Reuters in an interview.

8. And to conclude IISD’s Linkages which reports on global environmental negotiations, provides a summary of the conclusion of the Nagoya meeting:

The adoption of the package, in particular the Nagoya Protocol on ABS, was rightfully celebrated as a major success in the history of the CBD. And in this light, fears of “another Copenhagen,” popularized by the media, seem both overblown and inadequate. Aside from the package, COP 10 adopted more than 40 other decisions, including unprecedented developments on new complex issues such as geo-engineering and synthetic biology. Not all other decisions lived up to expectations, but taken together, they represent a significant step forward in multilateral cooperation on biodiversity. The CBD’s approach to implementation based on the ecosystem approach, and its mechanism for addressing new and emerging issues would have allowed work on implementation of the Convention to continue whether or not the package had been adopted. In contrast to the climate change regime, where key activities on implementation, such as the carbon market, depend on adopting a global deal on mitigation, the CBD’s agenda is being advanced through a multi-facetted system of work programmes, collaborations and partnerships across the environmental-policy board. So, even if COP 10 had failed to adopt “the package,” the remaining decisions would have allowed work on implementation of the Convention to continue.

A number of developments indicate that the CBD is in the middle of an important transformation process, towards an approach that integrates biodiversity concerns into all areas of human activity. The Strategic Plan and activities such as the TEEB study can give an important impulse to accelerate this transition. With the adoption of the ABS Protocol, it can be expected that future COPs will devote more attention to repositioning the CBD as the key international instrument to further efforts towards “life in harmony with biodiversity.” COP 10 has been a necessary and important step in that direction, not least because it showed that “Copenhagen” was a phenomenon specific to the politics of global climate change cooperation, rather than a crisis of the UN System and of global environmental multilateralism as a whole.


Satoyama – a Japanese cultural landscape

Many parents of small children will have seen Miyazaki’s classic animated film My Neighbour Totoro about Totoro, a forest spirit, who befriends two young girls.  Totoro inhabits a beautiful agricultural landscape known as Satyoyama.  Satoyama is a Japanese agricultural landscape that combines small scale agriculture and forest – if well managed it can be a multi-functional agriculture landscape that provides provisioning, regulating, and cultural ecosystem services.  Satoyama is an iconic Japanese cultural landscape that has been destroyed in Japan by development and rural out-migration, however is now being promoted in Japan and by the Japanese government for the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) meeting in Nagoya.

In honour of the CBD meeting in Japan, The Kyoto Journal (issue 75) has a special issue on Biodiversity that includes a large section on the ideals and reality of satoyama.  The table of contents for the section on the Worlds of Satoyama is:

UN university is conducting research on satoyama, and has a number of online resources (1, 2, and 3).

Via Agricultural Biodiversity Weblog

Agriculture – breeding, biodiversity and biomass

1) Lack of research to improve yields in non-industrial agriculture. The Agricultural Biodiversity Weblog comments on What are breeders selecting for?:

A new paper by H.E. Jones and colleagues compares cultivars of different ages under organic and non-organic systems, and concludes that modern varieties simply aren’t suited to organic systems.

2) The environmentalism of the poor. The poor want biomass not biodiversity is the unsurprising result on a new literature review from the Nature Conservancy reports SciDev.net.

“People just don’t care about biodiversity,” said Craig Leisher of the US-based Nature Conservancy, at the meeting, ‘Linking biodiversity conservation and poverty reduction: what, why and how?’ held at the UK’s Zoological Society of London.Leisher, who conducted the research with Neil Larsen, also from the Nature Conservancy, gave the example of a poor fisherman, for whom the route out of poverty is to catch more fish — not more kinds of fish. …

But Matt Walpole, head of the UN Environment Programme’s Ecosystem Assessment Programme, and an author of the Science study, warned that the finding that biomass was more important than biodiversity was context-specific.

“If one thinks in terms of consumptive use then amount is important,” he said. But in agriculture, for example, biodiversity is important.

“Variability allows adaptability to variations in the ecosystem … if you’ve got variation then you are more resistant to shocks.”

3) Agriculture vs. Fish. On Nature’s Climate Feedback blog Olive Heffernan reports on PISCES Conference:

Jake Rice and … economist Serge Garcia, are concerned that measures to conserve marine biodiversity are in contradiction with policies to protect food security, with the likely upshot that both will fail to address their respective goals.

The conundrum is straightforward: by mid-century, there’ll be an additional 2 billion people on earth, each of whom will need to eat. In total, they’ll require an extra 3.65*108 of dietary protein. Forecasts suggest that we’ll need an 11% increase in irrigation for grain production just to keep pace with human population growth, not withstanding the impacts of climate change on crops and water availability. Right now, one-third of the world’s population relies on fish and fisheries products for at least one-fifth of their annual protein intake; if that continues to be the case, we’ll need around 70 million metric tonnes more fish protein by 2050, says Rice.

That’s something like 75-100% of current fish protein production. So how can we generate this and manage our fisheries? Rice outlines several possible options, each of which involves a conflict with environmental management. …

The problem, says Rice, is that these clearly conflicting policy goals aren’t being looked at by the same people at a high enough level. Now that the old problem of fisheries governance is being met with the newer problems of climate change and rapid population growth, we need a merger of these discussions, he says. He’d like to see the Convention on Biological Diversity pay more attention to the sustainable food dimension of their mandate and the Food and Agricultural Organization speaking with the CBD at a higher level. Eventually, says Rice, the UN General Assembly should be the forum to look at merging and prioritizing these policies.

European biodiversity and ecosystem scientists merge

From European Science Foundation: European biodiversity and ecosystem scientists merge and gear up for long term research

Measures to tackle the human impact on biodiversity require long term research and collaboration between many countries working with common goals and frameworks. This emerged from a recent workshop organised by the European Science Foundation (ESF), which moved towards establishing an ESF Research Networking Programme (RNP) for ecosystem and biodiversity analysis on the back of existing initiatives.

Before finding conservation solutions, the big challenge is to understand how human activities and their possible consequences, such as climate and land use change, interact with ecosystems and alter biodiversity, according to Markus Fischer, convenor of the ESF workshop. The big first step will be to bring key researchers within Europe into a single “big tent” focusing on the whole field of biodiversity and associated ecosystem processes, from the molecular to the ecosystem level and across all groups of organisms. Until now, research into biodiversity and research into ecosystems have tended to be conducted separately even though the issues and underlying science are closely related. Thus, “the most important result of the workshop was the rapid consensus that the two previously separated fields – biodiversity and ecosystem research – should team up and integrate their results more intensively,” said Fischer. “The best way to arrive at a better integration is by harmonising methodological protocols and agreeing on a sampling design for joint investigations on diversity and ecosystem processes.” The workshop has laid the ground for such harmonisation.

The workshop identified the need to understand what features enable some species to benefit from changes and others to be driven out following various kinds of human activities, over both the short and long term.”We can learn a lot about functional consequences of changes in biodiversity by comparing ecological traits of rare and endangered species with those from increasing or invasive species, or by comparing how these two groups of species respond to changes in the environment,” said Fischer. “However, biodiversity research cannot be successful if it limits itself to the species level. Clearly, evolutionary biology must be integrated within innovative biodiversity research. Moreover, biological interactions need to be considered, including pollination, seed dispersal, predation, and decomposition, all constituting integral elements of ecosystem functioning.”

All these objectives can only be met through a common approach linking suitable local projects on the ground across the whole of Europe. “It was generally agreed that functional biodiversity research requires a network of field sites distributed across Europe to cover different types of habitats, landscapes and land-uses,” said Fischer. “Furthermore it was recognised that all facilities must allow the conduction of long-term research because of the non-linear, slow and often delayed response of ecological systems.” In the long run, an integration of the network into currently emerging European research initiatives such as ANAAE and LIFEWATCH will allow the full potential for synergy to be realised.

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