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Decision and Policy Analysis Research Area – DAPA

WWF and CIAT identify future conservation priorities in the Amazon

A group of scientists and conservation specialists from WWF-US, WWF-Peru, and WWF-Colombia met last week in CIAT’s Cali Headquarters to set up a conservation plan for the Amazon, in view of the current threats to biodiversity, and the future expected losses and extinction risks due to climatic changes.

The meeting was led by Dr. Jeff Price, managing director of adaptation at WWF-US, and among the participants there was George Powell, a WWF-US senior conservation scientist, Luis German Naranjo (WWF-Colombia), Juan Carlos Riveros (WWF-Peru), Sidney Rodrigues (WWF-Brazil), and our DAPA’s Andy Jarvis and Julian Ramirez. The whole meeting was done around several analyses done by CIAT, in collaboration with GBIF, Tyndall Centre and WWF.

Although our dataset has data only for a fraction of the world’s species, we believe our conclusions are strong as they’re based on the most up to date analysis tools and high quality geographic information.

It’s a matter of telling the world what are the impacts on the things we know, at the extent we currently know them-said Jeff Price when he was asked on the completeness of the data used during the meeting.

… and he’s certainly right. Documenting uncertainties is key for scientists to assess and understand data quality issues, but it’s useless to focus entirely on data availability and quality. Balancing data-related issues with methodological and policy development is key in order to appropriate plan biodiversity conservation towards the future.

After intense discussions we were able to come out with a draft methodology for conservation planning in the Amazon, which is actually applicable to any area. A brief summary of the meeting outputs:

1. Biodiversity conservation is a matter of how many species  (in terms of quantity and uniqueness) are conserved, and this largely depends on both landscape features (e.g. climate, topography), and current and future threat status of our ecosystems.

2. Most indigenous areas act as strong barriers to agricultural expansion, especially in Brazil, where deforestation remains controlled in some places due to the location of indigenous territories. These trends can be easily identified via spatial analyses.

3. There are several current threats that undermine biodiversity, and make conservation more difficult. Roads, for example, make it difficult for establishing corridors that connect protected areas. Cost-efficient and optimum adaptation plans therefore need to take into account these difficulties in implementation.

3. Climate change will surely threaten biodiversity as a whole, but several highly diverse sites are expected to remain climatically stable (although naturally deeper analyses are required). Refugia, micro-refugia, corridors, and other strategies need to be implemented.

4. Conservation should be focused in those areas “climatically stable”, and under moderate to low threat from anthropogenic activities. These areas need to be kept (or added to the current protected areas network) during the 21st century as they’re having moderate losses or threats.

5. Restoration should be the focus in highly fragmented landscapes, where large amounts of diversity are already lost but where there is moderate-high climatic stability.

6. Conservation planning must not occur in isolation of concerns about food security and poverty in the region, hence future agricultural suitability must also be addressed in the analyses.

Did we miss something?

A series of maps were produced and several ideas for publications arose from the discussion. We’re now focusing on a methodological paper, which will be submitted by the end of February.  Then onto the bigger picture policy implications of our analyses.  Watch this space.

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