Watch Professor Johan Rockström, Director of Stockholm Resilience Centre, in a brand new TED-talk. Human growth has strained the Earth's resources, but as Johan reminds us, our advances also give us the science to recognize this and change behavior. His research has found nine "planetary boundaries" that can guide us in protecting our planet's many overlapping ecosystems.
In this video Pavan Sukhdev, head of UNEP's Green Economy and study leader of The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) project, explains the true value of biodiversity and ecosystem services to human well-being.
The world is slowly wakening up to biodiversity loss and there are both serious risks to business, as well as significant opportunities, associated with biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation. These are some of the major conclusions drawn in the new report ”The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) for Business”, which was recently launched at the first Global Business of Biodiversity Symposium in London.
– Through the work of TEEB and others, the economic importance of biodiversity and ecosystems is emerging from the invisible into the visible spectrum, says Pavan Sukhdev, the TEEB Study Leader and also head of UNEP’s Green Economy Initiative, in a press release.
The new report cites a number of cases where businesses have started to think about ecosystems and their biodiversity as an extension of their asset base. It also identifies practical tools to manage biodiversity risks and highlights some emerging business models that deliver biodiversity benefits and ecosystem services on a commercial basis.
Sea cucumbers are a highly valued resource in coastal communities of the Western Indian Ocean. There are, however, increasing indications that these fisheries are in trouble and slipping toward degradation.
While largely unknown in the English-speaking world, sea cucumber (trepang, bêche-de-mer or balate) fisheries are widespread around the world. In the Western Indian Ocean, the sea cucumber industry has existed for over a century and is an important livelihood source in many coastal households. However, it is an industry that is becoming increasingly brittle. The total sea cucumber catches have been declining over the last 10 years and fishers are catching smaller individuals and having to target lower-value sea cucumber species (since many high-value species have been depleted from the fishing grounds). These negative trends have been driven by an expansion of the industry that is fueled by the huge demands of, mainly, the Asian market.
In Kenya, these fisheries are poorly understood and the current management policies are woefully inadequate to confront the emerging challenges. A newly published study in Ocean & Coastal Management by Swedish and Kenyan researchers begins adressing critical knowledge gaps in Kenyan sea cucumber fisheries. They show that Kenyan sea cucumber stocks show several signs of over-harvesting.
- Commercially valuable species may be threatened with depletion if control measuresare not put in place urgently. Collection of the previously low-value species and small-size sea cucumbers is increasing due to high demand in the Asian market and the high profits from these sizes, says co-author Maricela de la Torre-Castro
Sea cucumbers sold in Chinese market. Photo courtesy of Max Troell/azote.se
A groundbreaking study from researchers in Georgia unexpectedly finds that protected areas in two developing countries - Thailand and Costa Rica - may have helped relieve poverty in nearby communities over time.
Global efforts to protect nature are gaining some headway (for example see the REDD initiative). Setting up protected areas, in essence chunks of nature that are left untouched by humans, is a tool often touted as the best mechanism to do this. However, the evidence for protected areas really "protecting" nature are equivocal. In many cases the areas are too small and the protection status too poorly enforced for any positive effects to occur. Another controversial issue is how these protected areas affect the economic development of neighboring human communities. Some people argue that protected areas make poverty worse in local communities by restricting access to important economic activities like agriculture and logging. On the other hand, others have argued that locals may benefit from improved ecosystem services and associated ecotourism.
Moist cloudforest in the Monteverde National Park in Costa Rica. Photo by Miran Kegl/azote.se
On 31 May-2 June, the Swedish government will host the World Bank's Annual Bank Conference on Development Economics (ABCDE). This year it focuses explicitly on environmental issues in light of the financial and economic crisis, fragile states and human and social development.
The conference will gather some of the most prominent researchers in the areas of economics, environment and development, and bring them together with policy makers and practitioners from all over the world. Speakers include Nobel Laureates Elinor Ostrom, Joseph Stiglitz, Eric Maskin, James Mirrlees and Robert Solow, as well as leading environmental researchers like Paul Ehrlich, Simon Levin and Johan Rockström.
Some of the most urgent global challenges, such as environment and climate change as well as the financial and economic crisis, will be covered during the conference. The overall theme is Development Challenges in a Post-Crisis World and the conference will focus on five broad topics:
Environmental Commons and the Green Economy
Post-Crisis Debates on Development Strategy
The Political Economy of Fragile States
News Ways of Measuring Welfare
Social Programs and Transfers: Are We Learning?
The ABCDE-Conference was first organized in 1989 and has, since then, been established as one of the most prominent annual conferences on development economics. This year's conference will gather around 600 delegates and experts from all over the world in Stockholm.
The Somalian piracy problem has garnered some very negativeheadlines during the past couple of years. In essence, what the media highlights is the economic damage these pirates cause and how they have emerged as powerful mobsters, that lead lavish lifestyles. Yet these aspects only provide a narrow perspective on this quite complex problem. For example, one question that is seldom asked is the origins of these pirates. Leading experts in global terrorism believe the original motives of the pirates were tightly linked to protect local fishing grounds from foreign fishing fleets. This excerpt is from a story run by Times magazine
Ever since a civil war brought down Somalia’s last functional government in 1991, the country’s 3,330 km (2,000 miles) of coastline — the longest in continental Africa — has been pillaged by foreign vessels. A United Nations report in 2006 said that, in the absence of the country’s at one time serviceable coastguard, Somali waters have become the site of an international “free for all,” with fishing fleets from around the world illegally plundering Somali stocks and freezing out the country’s own rudimentarily-equipped fishermen. According to another U.N. report, an estimated $300 million worth of seafood is stolen from the country’s coastline each year. “In any context,” says Gustavo Carvalho, a London-based researcher with Global Witness, an environmental NGO, “that is a staggering sum.”
In the face of this, impoverished Somalis living by the sea have been forced over the years to defend their own fishing expeditions out of ports such as Eyl, Kismayo and Harardhere — all now considered to be pirate dens. Somali fishermen, whose industry was always small-scale, lacked the advanced boats and technologies of their interloping competitors, and also complained of being shot at by foreign fishermen with water cannons and firearms. “The first pirate gangs emerged in the ’90s to protect against foreign trawlers,” says Peter Lehr, lecturer in terrorism studies at Scotland’s University of St. Andrews and editor of Violence at Sea: Piracy in the Age of Global Terrorism. The names of existing pirate fleets, such as the National Volunteer Coastguard of Somalia or Somali Marines, are testament to the pirates’ initial motivations.
Efforts to slow down biodiversity loss are failing big-time. That is the conclusions drawn from a recent study, conducted by a huge 45-person team of scientists, thats just been published in the journal Science.
Fast-forward to 2010 and the International Year of Biodiversity and most conservationists will tell you that we're far from meeting these targets. Until recently these doom and gloom statements haven't been anchored in any real global assessment. Rather, they've simply been based on the extrapolation of some local and regional examples.
A recentstudy, led by Stuart Butchart from the UN Environment Programme's World Conservation Monitoring Centre (Unep-WCMC) and BirdLife International, evaluated the trends in 10 indicators of the planet’s biodiversity. These included things like the global status of vertebrate populations and the global cover of key ecosystems such as forests and coral reefs. The authors also investigated how human pressure on biodiversity had changed (e.g. the exploitation of fish stocks) and how societal responses (e.g. the extent of protected areas and economic aid aimed at biodiversity protection) had evolved during this period of time.
The South African fynbos ecosystem; a biodiversity hotspot, but for how long more? Photo by Jerker Lokrantz/azote.se