biodiversity


“It’s my job to be optimistic, but it’s a scary prospect. It’s difficult enough to convince people to save an elephant or a gorilla. It’s much harder to get them to care about a tiny tree frog.” 

Piotr Naskrecki, those of us who love amphibians know how you feel. I’ve been reading a gorgeous photography and essay book, The Smaller Majority, by Piotr Naskrecki. I emphasize that the book is more than scores of amazing photographs. Naskrecki, the director of Conservation International’s Invertebrate Diversity Initiative, and research associate at Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology, captures in words what so many of us with Amphibian Ark find so utterly frustrating as we attempt to draw attention to the crisis facing amphibians – and the seeming indifference to that plight. These are excerpts from the forward in the book I find so spot on:

“Most of animal life on Earth is small. Over 90 percent of known species are smaller than a human finger, smaller, in fact, than your fingernail. Our perspective on reality is severaly handicapped by our gargantuan size, rare giants surrounded by the smaller majority. Our enormous size prevents us from appreciating, or even noticing, most of what shares this planet with us and forces us to focus our attention on other equally large, or larger, creatures. We proclaim kinship with wolves and deer, even while we hold our breath before squeezing the trigger, and cultures across the globe revere eagles, bears, and lions, but few pay any attention to lizards and snails. Size is the great divider…

“Unlike most mammals, who live in a sensual world dominated by scents, our is a species that relies on  vision. Eyes help us make emotional connection with other people as well as other species. We prefer animals that can return our gaze, which puts many smaller organisms, some of which may have “too many” eyes or none at all, at a great disadvantage in the struggle for our affection.

“From pollination to seed dispersal, from soil production to waste removeal, and from water filtering to being food for others, invertebrates make Earth a livable planet. As tragic and unforgivable as it would be, the disappearance of mountain gorillas would have far smaller ecological repercussions than the extinction of a single species of savanna termite. We should never have to choose between these two species, of course.”

To learn more about Piotr’s work, check out this story in the Harvard University Gazette.

Lots of meaty stories leading up to Thursday’s World Environment Day sponsored by the United Nations Environment Programme:

ENS news service - Heads of state and 87 ministers from around the world have reinforced their commitment to “substantially reduce” the global loss of biodiversity within two years. The European Commission is committed to stopping the loss of biodiversity in Europe by 2010. Gathered at the ministerial segment of the World Biodiversity Summit in Bonn convened by the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, CBD, participants heard expressions of alarm at the unprecedented loss of species to human encroachment and also heard pledges to reverse this decline. Plant and animal species are becoming extinct at a rate 100 times the natural rate of extinction due to human activities that include pollution, habitat loss, increased consumption and climate change.

The Independent — Mass extinctions of plants and animals could have a severe impact on the living standards of the poorest people on the planet and cost up to £40bn a year, the first major report into the economic impact of biodiversity loss has found. Scientists say biodiversity is facing its greatest threat in millions of years, with three species dying out every hour. Now, the economic cost of such destruction has been assessed.

redOrbit - About 40 percent of the global economy is based on biological products and processes, according to the United Nations Environment Program. People in poorer regions, especially those in areas of low agricultural productivity, rely on genetic diversity of the environment. “However, human activities the world over are causing the progressive loss of species of plants and animals at a rate far higher than the natural background rate of extinction,” said the UNEP.

Have been holding onto this article from Planet 2025 News Network for awhile. Seems like a good day to share it. IUCN, by the way, is a key supporter of Amphibian Ark.

The business case for conserving nature is strong and getting stronger, according to a new report published today by IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) and Shell International Limited.

The report calls for policy reforms to increase the commercial rewards for conserving biodiversity, increased penalties for biodiversity loss and better information on the biodiversity performance of business. A key challenge facing all biodiversity businesses is the lack of accepted indicators to measure positive and negative contributions to biodiversity conservation.As the world wakes up to the accelerating loss of biological diversity, businesses are increasingly viewing biodiversity conservation as a potential profit centre, says the report, Building Biodiversity Business.”There are numerous pro-biodiversity business opportunities that can generate significant profits as well as benefits for nature,” says Dr Joshua Bishop, IUCN’s Senior Advisor on Economics and the Environment. “But a few inspiring examples aren’t enough. This report shows how to achieve a major increase in business investment in biodiversity conservation, by linking policy reforms, technical assistance and innovative financing tools.”Ecotourism is one example of how money can be made from looking after species and their habitats. Environmentally-friendly tourism is expanding at a rate of 20-30 percent annually, compared with 9 percent for tourism as a whole.

Many other businesses, historically responsible for the loss of biodiversity, are starting to lead the way by protecting biodiversity. Markets for organic agriculture and sustainably-harvested timber are growing at double-digit rates. Another major area of growth is the demand for climate mitigation services, such as the protection of forests and wetlands to absorb carbon dioxide.

Bio-prospecting, the search for new compounds, genes and organisms in the wild, is also a biodiversity business on the rise. Some suggest the sector could be worth as much as US$500 million by 2050.

“For businesses to conserve biodiversity it must ultimately become more profitable to protect nature and use natural resources sustainably, rather than ignore or destroy it,” says Sachin Kapila, Group Biodiversity Adviser at Shell International Limited.

Source: iNSnet

When a world leader assesses what’s happening to biodiversity, announces a huge commitment to preventing further loss, and then says, “Nothing less that the basis of our own survival, our very existence, is at stake” — well, it’s a good day for our planet.  Story pasted below and linked here.

Biodiversity: German pledges 500 million euros at UN talks

 

BONN, Germany (AFP) — Germany on Wednesday pledged half a billion euros (785 million dollars) to help defend threatened forests and called on others to join its effort as a UN conference on biodiversity engaged top gear.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her country wanted to set down a “very clear marker” on attaining the UN’s Millennium goal of braking biodiversity loss by 2010.

“The Federal government, between 2009 and 2012, will earmark an additional amount of 500 million euros,” Merkel told the meeting.

“We want to use this money in those areas where forests and other ecosystems are under threat and to find quick solutions for conserving them.”

From 2013, Germany will stump up half a billion dollars, annually, she promised, but added, “obviously, Germany cannot shoulder this enormous global burden alone.”

The three-day “high-level” section of the conference is gathering 87 ministers, with the goal of crafting a new global deal on preserving Earth’s wildlife.

“Noting less that the basis of our own survival, our very existence, is at stake,” Merkel told the 6,000 representatives from 191 countries attending the meeting, launched 11 days earlier.

Participants at the conference are hoping to establish a roadmap towards negotiating, by 2010, an “Access and Benefit Sharing” regulatory framework governing access to genetic resources and sharing the benefits from their use.

Amid sharp debate on the issue, Merkel called for “striking fair balance between rich and poor countries” in the economic exploitation of biodiversity.

The UN Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) was established at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso underlined the links between species loss and climate change, and said the world must see protecting biodiversity as an economic imperative.

“Biodiversity underpins our economies … and we cannot afford to deplete our public capital in this way,” he said.

Barroso singled out deforestation as one of the main causes of species loss, and said the European Union was reviewing measures to combat illegal logging, and trade in illegally harvested forest products.

But environment groups have criticised the EU for sitting on a draft law that would ban the importation of such products into Europe.

“The law is finished and ready to go, but because of commercial and business lobbying, the Commission has not gone forward,” said Saskia Richartz, policy director for biodiversity at Greenpeace.

Scientists say that species are becoming extinct at a dizzying rate — between 100 and 1,000 times the natural pace of extinction.

One in four mammals, one bird in eight, one third of all amphibians and 70 percent of plants are under threat.

Development economist Pavan Sukhdev has handed the conference a preliminary report in which the lost of the benefits of biodiversity are put at 3.1 trillion dollars a year, or six percent of the planet’s gross national product (GNP).

Group of Eight environment ministers met in Kobe, Japan, earlier this week, issuing a joint statement acknowledging the fundamental importance of biodiversity and spelling out their support for the Millennium Development Goal of reaching a “significant reduction” in species loss by the end of this decade.

Greenpeace’s Martin Kaiser praised Merkel for sending “a very strong and important signal” for reaching a strong agreement in Bonn.

He called on other industrialised countries to pitch in, and estimated around 30 billion euros (47.1 billion dollars) a year were needed to finance the protection of ancient forests.

Every once in a while I search for new information about the quest to establish a research powerhouse behind biodiversity that can do for threatened species what Al Gore and the IPPC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) have done for global warming.  I came across a February report from the people who one day will launch that equivalent, which will be known as the International Mechanism of Scientific Expertise on Biodiversity, or IMoSEB. You can download the slide presentation here.

There has been a three-year process of international meetings to pave the way for IMoSEB, and now it’s time for governments to populate the group and take it to the next level. Gaining international agreement on how to protect biodiversity is clearly a daunting task.

One of the slides mentions that IMoSEB will need to have “the capacity to identify and respond rapidly to biodiversty-related emergencies.” Until that day, NGOs like those that formed Amphibian Ark are going to have to go it largely alone. There is no greater biodiversity crisis than the one facing amphibians.

Preserving the diversity of amphibian wildlife can’t wait for the governments to step in and fix the problem. By then, the problem is going to only be more formidable. We all have to act now. It starts with getting familiar with the problem and pledging to be a force for good. The first step is to visit www.amphibianark.org.

bbc-bristol.jpg

Here’s an excellent gallery of photos from the Bristol Zoo’s leapfrog event, by BBC Bristol. Among the many things written on Dec. 31 or Jan. 1, there were dozens of comments that stood out to me. But here is just a sample. (In each excerpt or quote there is a link to the original story.)

The Chinese calendar may designate 2008 as the Year of the Rat, but in wildlife terms it is very definitely the year of the frog. Conservationists are dedicating the next 12 months to saving frogs and other amphibians, such as toads, newts and salamanders, which are now threatened as never before by a disease which seems to be exacerbated by global warming.

The coming year is playing out to be a pivotal one for many of the planet’s endangered species; whether or not they endure will – to a large extent – depend on the steps humanity takes to protect their habitats and avert the worst of global warming. Few are perhaps as vulnerable as amphibians.

A twilight Frog Concert will be held on February 29 at Melbourne Zoo.

“This was a fun way of bringing home some very serious messages about the future many amphibian species face and a great launch pad for Year of the Frog.”

The chytrid fungus is such a threat to amphibians that it is estimated that 500 species need to be taken into captivity to prevent them from dying out.

“Amphibians have been around for over 360 million years, enduring at least three mass extinction events, including the one that eliminated the dinosaurs. But amphibian species are becoming extinct at a pace faster than anything we have experienced,”

Scientists say the worldwide decline of amphibians is one of the world’s most pressing environmental concerns;one that may portend greater threats to the ecological balance of the planet.

Scientists now fear that the largest species mass extinction since the dinosaurs will likely happen in our time and among the most endangered are amphibians including frogs, toads, newts, salamanders, and caecilians.

Time’s fun when you’re having flies.  :-)

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