What actions should governments take to halt biodiversity loss?

The Guardian newspaper has hosted a campaign to compile a list of 100 tasks for world governments to undertake to tackle the biodiversity crisis. Submitted ideas were to:

• Make a major contribution to the safeguard of a particular endangered species or area;
• Be politically costly to implement or strongly opposed by some interest;
• Be strongly and widely supported by scientific evidence.

 I submitted the following suggestion:

The Guardian’s guidelines for “Biodiversity 100” reflect a conventional perspective on biodiversity conservation – they call for nominated biodiversity conservation actions that are costly, and strongly opposed by other interest groups. That makes for some dramatic – but not necessarily pragmatic – proposals.

I think the best actions or programs will be those that build on balance, not conflict. These actions would focus more on opportunities for synergies, and effective trade-offs, between biodiversity conservation and costs (“costs” representing other needs of society). These would be the truly “dramatic” actions - they would not only depart from conventional strategies, but also would actually deliver a reduced rate of loss of biodiversity.

Let’s look at the 2010 Biodiversity Target, for a significant reduction in the rate of loss of biodiversity.
The consensus is that the target was not met. This was, I think, a squandered opportunity. The targets and indicators pretty much focussed on the usual biodiversity indices, without attention to indices that might measure progress in balancing biodiversity conservation with other needs of society. Because achieving a balance achieves biodiversity conservation with lower opportunity cost (in terms of other needs of society) it can mean a reduced rate of biodiversity loss (see http://australianmuseum.net.au/the-2010-biodiversity-target-CAN-be-achieved).

We refer to such efficient, balanced, planning and conservation strategies under the broad umbrella of “systematic conservation planning”. Simply put, land-use planning and other decision making that more efficiently balances conservation with other needs of society implies reduced biodiversity losses, compared to business-as-usual. I presented example case studies for Panama, Papua New Guinea, and Japan, at the recent Convention on Biological Diversity COP10 Pre-conference (Nagoya, Japan; see http://www.biodic.go.jp/gbm/gbon/PDF/COP10_PreConference/0322/Faith_Nagoya_220310.pdf)

The emerging “beyond 2010” biodiversity targets do refer to systematic conservation planning, and will allow flexibility for countries to design their own indicators and targets. So, here is my proposed action for governments:

Implement a policy framework for balanced, efficient, regional conservation efforts. Example outcomes might include targeted conservation payments to private land owners, least-cost expansion of a representative protected areas system, regional planning for biodiversity benefits linked to REDD schemes, and so on.

Dr Dan Faith , Senior Principal Research Scientist email:danfaith8[at]yahoo.com.au
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