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Biodiversity & Human Well-being

6. What actions can be taken to conserve biodiversity?

  • 6.1 How do protected areas benefit biodiversity and humans?
  • 6.2 Can economic incentives benefit biodiversity and local communities?
  • 6.3 How can invasive species be addressed?
  • 6.4 How do protected areas benefit biodiversity and humans?
    • 6.4.1 Strategies for integrating biodiversity issues in production sectors
    • 6.4.2 Contributions of the private sector to biodiversity objectives
  • 6.5 What governance approaches can promote biodiversity conservation?
  • 6.6 What are the key factors of success of conservation actions?
  • 6.7 How could important drivers of biodiversity loss be addressed?

The source document for this Digest states:

  • Biodiversity loss is driven by local, regional, and global factors, so responses are also needed at all scales.
  • Responses need to acknowledge multiple stakeholders with different needs.
  • Given certain conditions, many effective responses are available to address the issues identified.
  • Responses designed to address biodiversity loss will not be sustainable or sufficient unless relevant direct and indirect drivers of change are addressed.
  • Further progress in reducing biodiversity loss will come through greater coherence and synergies among sectoral responses and through more systematic consideration of trade-offs among ecosystem services or between biodiversity conser­vation and other needs of society.

Some drivers of biodiversity loss are localized, such as overexploitation. Others are global, such as climate change, while many operate at a variety of scales, such as the local impacts of invasive species through global trade. Most of the responses assessed here were designed to address the direct drivers of biodiversity loss. However, these drivers are better seen as symptoms of the indirect drivers, such as unsustainable patterns of consumption, demographic change, and globalization.

At the local and regional scale, responses to the drivers may promote both local biodiversity and human well-being by acting on the synergies between maintenance of local biodiversity and provision of key ecosystem services. Responses promoting local management for global biodiversity values depend on local “capture” of the global values in a way that provides both ongoing incentives for management and support for local well-being (R5).

At the global scale, effective responses set priorities for conservation and development efforts in different regions and create shared goals or programs, such as the biodiversity-related conventions and the Millennium Development Goals. Effective trade-offs and synergies will be promoted when different strategies or instruments are used in an integrated, coordinated way (R5).

The MA assessment of biodiversity responses places human well-being as the central focus for assessment, recognizing that people make decisions concerning ecosystems based on a range of values related to well-being, including the use and non-use values of biodiversity and ecosystems. The assessment therefore has viewed biodiversity responses as addressing values at different scales, with strong links to ecosystem service values and well-being arising at each of these scales. The well-being of local people dominates the assessment of many responses, including those relating to protected areas, governance, wild species management, and various responses related to local capture of benefits.

Focusing exclusively on values at only one level often hinders responses that could promote values at all levels or reconcile conflicts between the levels. Effective responses function across scales, addressing global values of biodiversity while identifying opportunity costs or synergies with local values. Local consideration of global biodiversity recognizes the value of what is unique at a place (or what is not yet protected elsewhere). The values of ecosystem services, on the other hand, do not always depend on these unique elements. Effective biodiversity responses recognize both kinds of values. These considerations guide the assessment summarized in this section of a range of response strategies that to varying degrees integrate global and local values and that seek effective trade-offs and synergies for biodiversity, ecosystem services, and human well-being.

Difficulties in measuring biodiversity have complicated assessments of the impact of response strategies. Developing better indicators of biodiversity would enhance integration among strategies and instruments. For example, existing measures often focus on local biodiversity and do not estimate the marginal gains in regional or global biodiversity values. Similarly, biodiversity gains from organic farming are typically expressed only as localized species richness, with no consideration of the degree of contribution to regional or global biodiversity or the trade-offs with high-productivity industrial agriculture.

Source & ©: Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
 Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Biodiversity Synthesis (2005),
Chapter 5, p.69

6.1 How do protected areas benefit biodiversity and humans?

The source document for this Digest states:

Protected areas are an extremely important part of programs to conserve biodiversity and ecosystems, especially for sensitive habitats (R5). Recent assessments have shown that at the global and regional scales, the existence of current PAs, while essential, is not sufficient for conservation of the full range of biodiversity. Protected areas need to be better located, designed, and managed to deal with problems like lack of representativeness, impacts of human settlement within protected areas, illegal harvesting of plants and animals, unsustainable tourism, impacts of invasive alien species, and vulnerability to global change. Marine and freshwater ecosystems are even less well protected than terrestrial systems, leading to increasing efforts to expand PAs in these biomes. Efforts to expand marine protected areas are also spurred by strong evidence of positive synergies between conservation within PAs and sustainable use immediately outside their boundaries (C18). However, marine protected area management poses special challenges, as enforcement is difficult and much of the world’s oceans lie outside national jurisdictions.

Based on a survey of management effectiveness of a sample of nearly 200 protected areas in 34 countries, only 12% were found to have implemented an approved management plan. The assessment concluded that PA design, legal establishment, boundary demarcation, resource inventory, and objective setting were relatively well addressed. But management planning, monitoring and evaluation, and budgets for security and law enforcement were generally weak among the surveyed areas. Moreover, the “paper park” problem remains, whereby geographic areas may be labeled as some category of protected area but not achieve the promised form of management (R5).

Protected areas may contribute to poverty where rural people are excluded from resources that have traditionally supported their well-being. However, PAs can contribute to improved livelihoods when they are managed to benefit local people (R5). Relations with local people should be addressed more effectively through participatory consultation and planning. One possible strategy is to promote the broader use of IUCN protected areas management categories. Success depends on a collaborative management approach between government and stakeholders, an adaptive approach that tests options in the field, comprehensive monitoring that provides information on management success or failure, and empowerment of local communities through an open and transparent system that clarifies access and ownership of resources.

Success of protected areas as a response to biodiversity loss requires better site selection and incorporation of regional trade-offs to avoid some ecosystems from being poorly represented while others are overrepresented. Success of PAs depends on adequate legislation and management, sufficient resources, better integration with the wider region surrounding protected areas, and expanded stakeholder engagement (R5). Moreover, representation and management targets and performance indicators work best when they go beyond measuring the total area apparently protected. Indicators of percent-area coverage of PAs, as associated with the Millennium Development Goals and other targets, for example, only provide a broad indication of the actual extent of protection afforded by PA systems, but regional and national-level planning requires targets that take into account trade-offs and synergies with other ecosystem services.

Protected area design and management will need to take into account the impacts of climate change. The impacts of climate change will increase the risk of extinctions of certain species and change the nature of ecosystems. Shifts in species distribution as a result of climate change are well documented (C4, C19, C25). Today’s species conservation plans may incorporate adaptation and mitigation aspects for this threat, drawing on existing tools to help assess species’ vulnerability to climate change. Corridors and other habitat design aspects to give flexibility to protected areas are effective precautionary strategies. Improved management of habitat corridors and production ecosystems between protected areas will help biodiversity adapt to changing conditions (R5).

Source & ©: Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
 Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Biodiversity Synthesis (2005),
Chapter 5, p.69

6.2 Can economic incentives benefit biodiversity and local communities?

The source document for this Digest states:

The impact of market instruments in encouraging and achieving conservation of biodiversity is unclear (R5). Although tradable development rights offer the potential to achieve a conservation objective at a low cost by offering flexibility in achieving the objectives, they have been the subject of some criticisms—notably for being complex and involving high transaction costs and the establishment of new supporting institutions. For example, a situation could arise in which the most ecologically sensitive land but also the least costly to develop would not be protected. To date, the TDR has not been designed to target specific habitat types and properties.

Transferring rights to own and manage ecosystem services to private individuals gives them a stake in conserving those CHECK IF DATE IS NOT AN ERROR 23-Jun-2006 levels of institutional support. For example, in South Africa, changes in wildlife protection legislation allowed a shift in landownership and a conversion from cattle and sheep farming to profitable game farming, enabling conservation of indigenous wildlife. On the other hand, the CAMPFIRE program in Zimbabwe, based on sustainable community-managed use of wildlife, has now become an example of how success can turn into failure, with the state repossessing the areas given to individuals and breaking the levels of trust and transparency—a form of instrumental freedom—that are critically needed for these economic responses to work efficiently and equitably (R17).

Payments to local landowners for ecosystem services show promise of improving the allocation of ecosystem services and are applicable to biodiversity conservation. However, compensating mechanisms addressing the distributive and equitable aspects of these economic instruments may need to be designed in support of such efforts. By 2001, more than 280,000 hectares of forests had been incorporated in Costa Rica within reserves, at a cost of about $30 million per year, with typical annual payments ranging from $35 to $45 per hectare for forest conservation (R5 Box 5.3). However, the existence of direct payment initiatives does not guarantee success in achieving conservation and development objectives or benefits for human well-being. Empirical analyses about the distributive impacts across different social groups are rare.

Direct payments are often more effective than indirect incentives. For example, integrated conservation-development projects—an indirect incentive—designed to allow local populations to improve their well-being by capturing international willingness to pay for biodiversity conservation have in practice rarely been integrated into ongoing incentives for conservation. Overall, long-term success for these response strategies depends on meeting the economic and social needs of communities whose well-being already depends to varying degrees on biodiversity products and the ecosystem services biodiversity supports (R5).

However, direct payments have been criticized for requiring ongoing financial commitments to maintain the link between investment and conservation objectives. Furthermore they have led in some instances to inter- and intra-community conflict.

Yet many success stories show the effectiveness of direct payments and the transfer of property rights in providing incentives for local communities to conserve biodiversity. Effectiveness of payments in conserving regional biodiversity may be enhanced by new approaches that target payments based on estimated marginal gains (“complementarity” values) (R5 Box 5.3).

Significant improvements can be made to mitigate biodiversity loss and ecosystem changes by removing or redirecting economic subsidies that cause more harm than good. Agricultural subsidies in industrial countries reduce world prices for many commodities that developing countries produce. Lower prices provide the wrong incentives, encouraging these countries to adopt unsustainable agricultural activities that destroy ecosystems as well as push many poor farmers into poverty. Therefore the removal or redirection of agricultural subsidies is highly likely by itself to produce major improvements in ecosystem services and to check the rate of biodiversity loss (R5).

The promotion of “win-win” outcomes has been politically correct at best and naive at worst. Economic incentives that encourage the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity show considerable promise. However, trade-offs between biodiversity, economic gains, and social needs have to be more realistically acknowledged. The benefits of biodiversity conservation are often widespread, even global in the case of existence values or carbon sequestration, while the costs of restricting access to biodiversity often are concentrated on groups living near biodiversity-rich areas (R5).

Source & ©: Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
 Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Biodiversity Synthesis (2005),
Chapter 5, p.70

6.3 How can invasive species be addressed?

The source document for this Digest states:

Direct management of invasive species will become an even more important biodiversity conservation response, typically calling for an ecosystem-level response if the invasive species has become established. Control or eradication of an invasive species once it is established is often extremely difficult and costly, while prevention and early intervention have been shown to be more successful and cost-effective. Common factors in suc­cessful eradication cases include particular biological features of the target species (for example, poor dispersal ability), early detection/response, sufficient economic resources devoted for a sufficient duration, and widespread support from the relevant agencies and the public. Successful prevention requires increased efforts in the control and regulation of the transportation of invasive species due to international trade (R5).

Chemical control of invasive plant species, sometimes combined with mechanical removal like cutting or pruning, has been useful for controlling at least some invasive plants, but has not proved particularly successful in eradication. In addition to its low efficiency, chemical control can be expensive. Biological control of invasive species has also been attempted, but results are mixed (R5). For example, the introduction of a non-native predatory snail to control the giant African snail in Hawaii led to extinction of many native snails. Some 160 species of biological agents, mainly insects and fungi, are registered for controlling invasive species in North America, and many of them appear highly effective. However, at least some of the biological agents used are themselves potential invaders. Environmental screening and risk assessment can minimize the likelihood of negative impacts on non-target native species.

Social and economic aspects of the control of invasive species have received less attention, perhaps because of difficulties in estimating these trade-offs. The Global Invasive Species Program is an international response to address the problem. The CBD has adopted Guiding Principles on Invasive Alien Species (Decision VI/23) as a basic policy response, but it is too early to assess the effectiveness of implementation (R5).

Sustainable use of natural resources is an integral part of any sustainable development program, yet its contribution to conservation remains a highly controversial subject within the conservation community. Conserving species when the management objective is ensuring resource availability to support human livelihoods is frequently unsuccessful. This is because optimal management for natural resource extraction frequently has negative impacts on species targeted for conservation. Therefore, care in establishing positive incentives for conservation and sustainable use is critical to successful biodiversity conservation (R5).

Where the goal is species conservation, and where a specific population has a distinct identity and can be managed directly, species management approaches can be effective. However, managing for a single species is rarely effective when the goal is ecosystem functioning, which is tied to the entire suite of species present in the area. Where human livelihoods depend on single species resources, species management can be effective (for example, some fisheries and game species), but where people depend on a range of different wild resources, as is frequently the case, multiple species management is the appropriate approach (R5).

Source & ©: Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
 Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Biodiversity Synthesis (2005),
Chapter 5, p.71

6.4 How do protected areas benefit biodiversity and humans?

    • 6.4.1 Strategies for integrating biodiversity issues in production sectors
    • 6.4.2 Contributions of the private sector to biodiversity objectives

6.4.1 Strategies for integrating biodiversity issues in production sectors

The source document for this Digest states:

At the national level, integrating biodiversity issues into agriculture, fishery, and forestry management encourages sustainable harvesting and minimizes negative impacts on biodiversity. Biodiversity will only be conserved and sustainably used when it becomes a mainstream concern of production sectors. Agriculture is directly dependent on biodiversity, but agricultural practices in recent decades have focused on maximizing yields. Research and development have focused on few relatively productive species, thus ignoring the potential importance of biodiversity. Effective response strategies include sustainable intensification, which minimizes the need for expanding total area for production, so allowing more area for biodiversity conservation. Practices such as integrated pest management, some forms of organic farming, and protection of field margins, riparian zones, and other noncultivated habitats within farms can promote synergistic relationships between agriculture, domestic biodiversity, and wild biodiversity. However, assessments of biodiversity contributions from such management reveal little data about contributions to regional biodiversity conservation (C26, R5).

A review of 36 initiatives to conserve wild biodiversity while enhancing agricultural production demonstrated benefits to landscape and ecosystem diversity, while impacts on species diversity were very situation-specific. Assessing the impact of these approaches suffers from a lack of consistent, comprehensively documented research on the systems, particularly regarding interactions between agricultural production and ecosystem health (R5).

Tropical deforestation at a local level can be controlled most effectively when the livelihood needs of local inhabitants are addressed within the context of sustainable forestry. The early proponents of forest certification hoped it would be an effective response to tropical deforestation, but most certified forests are in the North, managed by large companies and exporting to Northern retailers (C9, C21). The proliferation of certification programs to meet the needs of different stakeholders has meant that no single program has emerged as the only credible or domi­nant approach internationally (R8.3.9). Forest management policies should center on existing land and water ownership at the community level. Relevant legal tools include redesigning ownership to small-scale private control of forests, public-private partnerships, direct management of forests by indigenous people, and company-community partnerships. New land tenure systems must be context-relevant and accompanied by enforcement if they are to be effective. They need to include elements of education, training, health, and safety to function effectively (R5, R8).

Source & ©: Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
 Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Biodiversity Synthesis (2005),
Chapter 5, p.71

6.4.2 Contributions of the private sector to biodiversity objectives

The source document for this Digest states:

The private sector can make significant contributions to biodiversity conservation. Some parts of the private sector are showing greater willingness to contribute to biodiversity conservation and sustainable use due to the influence of shareholders, customers, and government regulation. Showing greater corporate social responsibility, many companies are now preparing their own biodiversity action plans, managing their own landholdings in ways that are more compatible with biodiversity conservation, supporting certification schemes that promote more sustainable use, working with multiple stakeholders, and accepting their responsibility for addressing biodiversity issues in their operations. Influence of shareholders or customers is limited in cases where the company is not publicly listed or is government-owned.

Further developments are likely to focus on two main areas. First, in addition to assessing the impact of companies on biodiversity, important though this is, increasing emphasis will be given to ecosystem services and how companies rely on them. This will require development of mechanisms for companies to understand their risk exposure and to manage those risks. Second, greater collaboration is likely to take place between NGOs and business in order to more fully explore ways to reduce harmful trade-offs and identify positive synergies that could lead to more effective sustainable management practices (R5).

Source & ©: Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
 Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Biodiversity Synthesis (2005),
Chapter 5, p.72

6.5 What governance approaches can promote biodiversity conservation?

The source document for this Digest states:

Governance approaches to support biodiversity conservation and sustainable use are required at all levels, with supportive laws and policies developed by central governments providing the security of tenure and authority essential for sustainable management at lower levels. The principle that biodiversity should be managed at the lowest appropriate level has led to decentralization in many parts of the world, with variable results. The key to success is strong institutions at all levels, with security of tenure and authority at the lower levels essential to providing incentives for sustainable management (R5).

At the same time that management of some ecosystem services is being devolved to lower levels, management approaches are also evolving to deal with large-scale processes with many stakeholders. Problems such as regional water scarcity and conservation of large ecosystems require large-scale management structures. For example, most of the major rivers in Southern Africa flow across international borders, so international water co-management organizations are being designed to share the management of riparian resources and ensure water security for all members. However, political instability in one state may negatively affect others, and power among stakeholders is likely to be uneven.

Neither centralization nor decentralization of authority always results in better management. For example, the power of Catchment Management Agencies in South Africa is constrained to their catchment, but impacts may be felt from outside or upstream. The best strategy may be one with multi-subsidiarity—that is, functions that subordinate organizations perform effectively belong more properly to them (because they have the best information) than to a dominant central organization, and the central organization functions as a center of support, coordination, and communication (R5).

Legal systems in countries are multilayered and in many countries, local practices or informal institutions may be much stronger than the law on paper. Important customs relate to the local norms and traditions of managing property rights and the ecosystems around them. Since these are embedded in the local societies, changing these customs and customary rights through external incentive and disincentive schemes is very difficult unless the incentives are very carefully designed. Local knowledge, integrated with other scientific knowledge, becomes absolutely critical for addressing ways of managing local ecosystems.

More effort is needed in integrating biodiversity conservation and sustainable use activities within larger macroeconomic decision-making frameworks. New poverty reduction strategies have been developed in recent years covering a wide range of policies and different scales and actors. However, the integration or mainstreaming of ecosystems and ecosystem services is largely ignored. The focus of such strategies is generally on institutional and macroeconomic stability, the generation of sectoral growth, and the reduction of the number of people living on less than $1 a day in poor countries. It is well documented that many of the structural adjustment programs of the mid- to late 1980s caused deterioration in ecosystem services and a deepening of poverty in many developing countries (R17).

International cooperation through multilateral environmental agreements requires increased commitment to implementation of activities that effectively conserve biodiversity and promote sustainable use of biological resources. Numerous multilateral environmental agreements have now been established that contribute to conserving biodiversity. The Convention on Biological Diversity is the most comprehensive, but numerous others are also relevant, including the World Heritage Conven­tion, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, the Convention on Migratory Species, the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification, the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, and numerous regional agreements. Their impacts at policy and practical levels depend on the will of the contracting parties (R5).

Effective responses may build on recent attempts (such as through joint work plans) to create synergies between conventions. The lack of compulsory jurisdiction for dispute resolution is a major weakness in international environmental law. However, requirements to report to conventions put pressure on countries to undertake active measures under the framework of those treaties. An effective instrument should include incentives, plus sanctions for violations or noncompliance procedures to help countries come into compliance. Links between biodiversity conventions and other international legal institutions that have significant impacts on biodiversity (such as the World Trade Organization) remain weak (R5).

The international agreements with the greatest impact on biodiversity are not in the environmental field but rather deal with economic and political issues. These typically do not take into account their impact on biodiversity. Successful responses will require that these agreements are closely linked with other agreements and that solutions designed for one regime do not lead to problems in other regimes. For example, efforts to sequester carbon under the Kyoto Protocol should seek to enhance biodiversity, not harm it (for example, by planting multiple species of native trees rather than monospecific plantations of exotic species) (R5).

Although biodiversity loss is a recognized global problem, most direct actions to halt or reduce loss need to be taken locally or nationally. Indirect drivers like globalization and international decisions on trade and economics often have a negative effect on biodiversity and should be addressed at the international level, but the proximate responsibility to detect and act directly on biodiversity loss is at the local and national level. For threatened endemic species or ecosystems limited to an area within a single country or local administrative unit, the relevant agencies should give high priority to these species or ecosystems, with appropriate support from global, regional, or national support systems (R5).

Source & ©: Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
 Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Biodiversity Synthesis (2005),
Chapter 5, p.72

6.6 What are the key factors of success of conservation actions?

The source document for this Digest states:

Numerous response options exist to improve the benefits from ecosystem services to human societies without undermining biodiversity. The political and social changes now occurring in many parts of the world will have far-reaching consequences for the way ecosystem services and human well-being are managed in the future; it is thus imperative to develop an increased understanding of the enabling conditions needed for choosing and implementing responses. (See Box 5.1)

Box 5.1. Key Factors of Successful Responses to Biodiversity Loss

Responses do not work in a vacuum. A variety of enabling conditions—a combination of instrumental freedoms and institutional frameworks—play critical roles in determining the success or failure of a response strategy. The success or failure of many responses is largely influenced by the various institutional frameworks in place in a country (CF3, R17).

Education and communication programs have both informed and changed preferences for biodiversity conservation and have improved implementation of biodiversity responses (R5). Scientific findings and data need to be made available to all of society. A major obstacle for knowing (and therefore valuing), preserving, sustainably using, and sharing benefits equitably from the biodiversity of a region is the human and institutional capacity to research a country’s biota. The CONABIO initiative in Mexico and INBio in Cost Rica offer examples of successful national models for converting basic taxonomic information into knowledge for biodiversity conservation policies, as well as for other policies relating to ecosystems and biodiversity.

Ecosystem restoration activities are now common in many countries and include actions to restore almost all types of ecosystems, including wetlands, forests, grasslands, estuaries, coral reefs, and mangroves. Restoration will become an increasingly important response as more ecosystems become degraded and as demands for their services continue to grow. Ecosystem restoration, however, is generally far more expensive an option than protecting the original ecosystem, and it is rare that all the biodiversity and services of a system can be restored (R5).

Rather than the “win-win” outcomes promoted (or assumed) by many practitioners of integrated conservation and development projects, conflict is more often the norm, and trade-offs between conservation and development need to be acknowledged. Identifying and then negotiating trade-offs is complex, involving different policy options, different priorities for conservation and development, and different stakeholders. In the case of biodiversity conservation, the challenge is in negotiating these trade-offs, determining levels of acceptable biodiversity loss, and encouraging stakeholder participation. Where trade-offs must be made, decision-makers must consider and make explicit the consequences of all options. Better trade-offs from policies that remove perverse incentives or create markets for biodiversity protection can achieve a given level of biodiversity protection (regionally) at lower cost (R5).

The “ecosystem approaches” as developed by the CBD and others provide principles for integration across scales and across different responses. Central to the rationale is that the full range of measures is applied in a continuum from strictly protected to human-made ecosystems and that integration can be achieved through both spatial and temporal separation across the landscape, as well as through integration within a site. The MA sub-global assessments highlight useful synergies and trade-offs where different responses are integrated into a coherent regional framework (SG9). While some effective approaches will not require quantification of biodiversity gains, quantifying marginal gains and losses from different sources can strengthen such integration and enable one strategy to complement another in a targeted, strategic way (R17).

Society may receive greater net benefits when opportunity costs of conservation in a particular location are adjusted to reflect positive gains from ecosystem services provided and when the setting of biodiversity targets takes all land and water use contributions into account (C5 Box 5.2, R5, R17). Debates about the relative value of formal protected areas versus lands that are more intensely used by people but that conserve at least some components of biodiversity are more constructive when conservation is seen as a continuum of possibilities. Weaknesses of both ends of the spectrum can be overcome by linking them in integrated regional strategies (R5).

For example, an area converted to agriculture can lead to loss of biodiversity but can still contribute to regional biodiversity if it contributes certain complementary elements of biodiversity to overall regional biodiversity conservation. Formal protected areas are criticized for foreclosing other opportunities for society, but an integrated regional approach can build on the biodiversity protection gains from the surrounding lands, thereby reducing some of the pressure for biodiversity protection in the face of other anticipated uses over the region. Many contributions to overall biodiversity protection are made from production landscapes or other lands outside of protected areas, and integration allows these contributions to be credited at the regional planning scale and to increase regional net benefits. However, the ideal of measurable gains from production lands should not reduce the more general efforts to mainstream biodiversity into other sectors; even without formal estimates of complementarity values, mainstreaming poli­cies can be seen as important aspects of integration. (R5)

Source & ©: Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
 Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Biodiversity Synthesis (2005),
Chapter 5, p.74

6.7 How could important drivers of biodiversity loss be addressed?

The source document for this Digest states:

Many of the responses designed with the conservation of biodiversity or ecosystem service as the primary goal will not be sustainable or sufficient unless indirect and direct drivers of change are addressed. Numerous responses that address direct and indirect drivers would be particularly important for biodiver­sity and ecosystem services:

  • Elimination of subsidies that promote excessive use of specific ecosystem services. Subsidies paid to the agricultural sectors of OECD countries between 2001 and 2003 averaged over $324 billion annually, or one third the global value of agricultural products in 2000 (S7). These subsidies lead to overproduction, reduce the profitability of agriculture in developing countries, and promote overuse of fertilizers and pesticides. Similar problems are created by fishery subsidies, which amounted to approximately $6.2 billion in OECD countries in 2002, or about 20% of the gross value of production (S7). Although removal of perverse subsidies will produce net benefits, it will not be without costs. Some of the people benefiting from production subsidies (through either the low prices of products that result from the subsidies or as direct recipients of subsidies) are poor and would be harmed by their removal. Compensatory mechanisms may be needed for these groups. Moreover, removal of agricultural subsidies within the OECD would need to be accompanied by actions designed to minimize adverse impacts on ecosystem services in developing countries. But the basic challenge remains that the current economic system relies fundamentally on economic growth that disregards its impact on natural resources.
  • Promotion of sustainable intensification of agriculture (C4, C26). The expansion of agriculture will continue to be one of the major drivers of biodiversity loss well into the twenty-first century. In regions where agricultural expansion continues to be a large threat to biodiversity, the development, assessment, and diffusion of technologies that could increase the production of food per unit area sustainably, without harmful trade-offs related to excessive consumption of water or use of nutrients or pesticides, would significantly lessen pressure on biodiversity. In many cases, appropriate technologies already exist that could be applied more widely, but countries lack the financial resources and intuitional capabilities to gain and use these technologies. Where agriculture already dominates landscapes, the maintenance of biodiversity within these landscapes is an important component of total biodiversity conservation efforts, and, if managed appropriately, can also contribute to agricultural productivity and sustainability through the ecosystem services that biodiversity provides (such as through pest control, pollination, soil fertility, protection of water courses against soil erosion, and the removal of excessive nutrients).
  • Slowing and adapting to climate change (R13). By the end of the century, climate change and its impacts may be the dominant direct driver of biodiversity loss and change of ecosystem services globally. Harm to biodiversity will grow with both increasing rates in change in climate and increasing absolute amounts of change. For ecosystem services, some services in some regions may initially benefit from increases in temperature or precipitation expected under climate scenarios, but the balance of evidence indicates that there will be a significant net harmful impact on ecosystem services worldwide if global mean surface temperature increase more than 2° Celsius above preindustrial levels or faster than 0.2° Celsius per decade (medium certainty). Given the inertia in the climate system, actions to facilitate the adaptation of biodiversity and ecosystems to climate change will be necessary to mitigate negative impacts. These may include the development of ecological corridors or networks.
  • Slowing the global growth in nutrient loading (even while increasing fertilizer application in regions where crop yields are constrained by the lack of fertilizers, such as parts of sub-Saharan Africa). Technologies already exist for reduction of nutrient pollution at reasonable costs, but new policies are needed for these tools to be applied on a sufficient scale to slow and ultimately reverse the increase in nutrient loading (R9).
  • Correction of market failures and internalization of environmental externalities that lead to the degradation of ecosystem services (R17, R10, R13). Because many ecosystem services are not traded in markets, markets fail to provide appropriate signals that might otherwise contribute to the efficient allocation and sustainable use of the services. In addition, many of the harmful trade-offs and costs associated with the management of one ecosystem service are borne by others and so also do not weigh into decisions regarding the management of that service. In countries with supportive institutions in place, market-based tools can be used to correct some market failures and internalize externalities, particularly with respect to provisioning ecosystem services.
  • Increased transparency and accountability of government and private-sector performance in decisions that affect ecosystems, including through greater involvement of concerned stakeholders in decision-making (RWG, SG9). Laws, policies, institutions, and markets that have been shaped through public participation in decision-making are more likely to be effective and perceived as just. Stakeholder participation also contributes to the decision-making process because it allows for a better understanding of impacts and vulnerability, the distribution of costs and benefits associated with trade-offs, and the identification of a broader range of response options that are available in a specific context. And stakeholder involvement and transparency of decision-making can increase accountability and reduce corruption.
  • Integration of biodiversity conservation strategies and responses within broader development planning frameworks. For example, protected areas, restoration ecology, and markets for ecosystem services will have higher chances of success if these responses are reflected in the national development strategies or in poverty reduction strategies, in the case of many developing countries. In this manner, the costs and benefits of these conservation strate­gies and their contribution to human development are explicitly recognized in the Public Expenditure Review and resources for the implementation of the responses can be set aside in national Mid-Term Budgetary Frameworks (R17).
  • Increased coordination among multilateral environmental agreements and between environmental agreements and other international economic and social institutions (R17). International agreements are indispensable for addressing ecosystem-related concerns that span national boundaries, but numerous obstacles weaken their current effectiveness. The limited, focused nature of the goals and mechanisms included in most bilateral and multilateral environmental treaties does not address the broader issue of ecosystem services and human well-being. Steps are now being taken to increase coordination among these treaties, and this could help broaden the focus of the array of instruments. However, coordination is also needed between the multilateral environmental agreements and the more politically powerful international legal institutions, such as economic and trade agreements, to ensure that they are not acting at cross-purposes.
  • Enhancement of human and institutional capacity for assessing the consequences of ecosystem change for human well-being and acting on such assessments (RWG). Technical capacity for agriculture, forestry, and fisheries management is still limited in many countries, but it is vastly greater than the capacity for effective management for ecosystem services not derived from these sectors.
  • Addressing unsustainable consumption patterns (RWG). Consumption of ecosystem services and nonrenewable resources affects biodiversity and ecosystems directly and indirectly. Total consumption is a factor of per capita consumption, population, and efficiency of resource use. Slowing biodiversity loss requires that the combined effect of these factors be reduced.

Source & ©: Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
 Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Biodiversity Synthesis (2005),
Chapter 5, p.75


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