Community Resilience and Biodiversity conservation

Four years later this is still relevant. The latest IPBES´ report on Land degradation and restoration shows that ¨“Achievement of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and its Aichi Biodiversity Targets, and the Paris Agreement on climate change, all depend on the health and vitality of our natural environment in all its diversity and complexity. Acting to protect and promote biodiversity is at least as important to achieving these commitments and to human wellbeing as is the fight against global climate change”.

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I was lucky to participate in the Second Dialogue on Finance for biodiversity of the Convention for Biological Diversity held in Quito, last 9-12 April 2014. A variety of national and international experiences in dealing with biodiversity and ecosystem services, including views from intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, development agencies, social movements, farmer organizations, indigenous and local communities organizations, scientists and the private sector enriched the understanding about mechanisms to finance biodiversity.

In my opinion discussing the variety of mechanisms to finance biodiversity is necessary: taxes, compensations, offsets, paying for ecosystem services, all very interesting, BUT, are we really mainstreaming biodiversity in the development agenda? or are we just planning development at the expenses of biodiversity as usual? how can we make sure that the interconnections between biodiversity and human communities, are at the heart of all sustainability discussions? The reality is that the links between human beings and the nature…

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Conscious cuisine

Spanish version

A couple of days ago a friend of mine asked on FB how much money do we spend in food per month. It took me some minutes to answer and my surprise was that although I do have to live on a budget, when it comes to food, my choices don’t really depend on the price alone. organicHaving mostly a plant-based diet, cooking at home and living in a tropical country where plenty of fresh food is available all year long, makes my budget pretty reasonable when it comes to buying groceries. I have been a vegetarian for almost 18 years now and my diet has evolved over time towards a diet where my values get more and more involved in my food choices.
As consumers, I believe we have the power and the responsibility of deciding which initiatives we support and which ones we don’t. In the case of food production and consumption, our choices can have an enormous impact on the environment and on people. Here are some of the considerations I take before buying my food:

  1. Organic: choosing pesticides and chemical fertilisers free products has a direct benefit on our health and ensure that soils and water sources  don’t get poisoned.
  2. Local: choosing local products reduce your carbon footprint, benefit agro-biodiversity and supports local economies.
  3. Seasonal: seasonal products are usually cheaper and taste better. In fact these products have more vitamins and nutrients that non-seasonal ones.
  4. Fair Price: I prefer buying directly from the producer avoiding intermediaries when possible and I paid them what is fair.   Another option is choosing certified products that ensure that the producers are getting paid a fair price for their products.Vayu blog 2
  5. Biodiversity friendly: I choose products coming from agro-ecology and permaculture practices that are compatible with biodiversity. Intensive agriculture even if it is organic and local can be detrimental for most species.
  6. Good preparation: once I have all my bag of “goodies”, I spend some time exploring recipes for good preparation and storage of food so I can make the most out of what I buy in terms of nutrition and waste reduction.

I try to consider all 6 points before buying my food but it is not always easy. In occasions I have to choose one over another and price does play a role in here, but I do my best and feel it is good to think about this before buying.

Vayu blog 1Now imagine a place that takes care of all these details for you and offers you delicious dishes consciously prepared.  Looking into the quality and origine of the products and cooked in a manner that gives you the best out of each ingredient.  That is VAYÚ- Alimentación Consciente, located in Quito’s valley Cumbaya in Ecuador. A cosy place that offers  vegetarian, vegan, raw, sugar free options and more.  With green spaces, suitable for children,  pet friendly, great weather, homie attention…a true conscious cuisine. VAYÚ also has a small shop with delicious and healthy products for you to buy. It is definitely a place to visit and enjoy with family and friends. Really recommended!

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Our #foodchoices have an enormous impact on the #environment and on #people. Choose #organic #local #seasonal #fairprice #biodiversityfriendly#consciouscuisine 

Bugs, glaciers and climate change

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Antisana Volcano-Ecuador

Have you ever wonder how do scientist study/monitor glaciers?

I was lucky enough to join a field trip with my friends from Catholic University in Quito.

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Antisa

The fresh water team has been studying the Antisana glacier in Ecuador, rivers and all the little bugs that live there for about a decade!!! yes! they know exactly who live in those glacier rivers and what is every bug doing there.  Who is visiting, who is a resident in the site and who is dispersing. They visit remote sites, pick some water samples, measure various characteristics of the streams  and study the macro invertebrate communities in each site. They also look for little holes  called “cryoconites” in the glacier where some microbes live. With that information they can monitor changes over time. This is especially  relevant for understanding  the biodiversity of the area, the quality of water and how climate change is affecting the glacier. This is how they do it! this was my day at a biologist’s office 😉 Because, science matters!

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Antisana Reserve-Ecuador

 

Pollinators, food security and rural development

I am back to my (BUG) roots 😉 Check out my latest article about “Pollinators, Food security, and Rural Development”. caro bug 1My love for bugs, biodiversity,  sustainable agriculture and good/healthy food combined in a document that will support the discussions at the first-ever IPBES Trialogue in Sarajevo. The Trialogue will bring together around 50 scientists, policy-makers and beekeepers/farmers to discuss about the situation in Montenegro, Albania, Moldova, Bosnia&Herzegovina and Georgia.

Download the full article here.

Key messages:

“Why are pollinators important?

  • Globally, nearly 90 per cent of wild flowering plant species depend, at least in part, on the transfer of pollen by animals. Plants are critical for the continued functioning of ecosystems as they provide food, form habitats and provide other resources for a wide range of other species (IPBES, 2016a).[…]
  • […] Pollinator-dependent food products are important contributors to healthy human diets and nutrition. Pollinator- dependent species encompass many fruit, vegetable, seed, nut and oil crops, which supply major proportions of micronutrients, vitamins and minerals in the human diet (IPBES, 2016a). […]
  • […] pollinators provide multiple benefits beyond food production. Their value has as well an important cultural and social component. Many livelihoods and cultural practices depend on pollinators, their products and multiple benefits such as medicine, fibres, materials for musical instruments, source of inspirations for arts, literature to name a few (IPBES, 2016a).[…]

What is the problem?

  • […] Globally, there is a well-documented decline in some species of wild pollinators, and an important lack of data on the status of most wild species. Concerning managed species, honey bee numbers are generally increasing with local declines and important seasonal colony loss registered in several countries. As a result, there are losses of genetic diversity and local adaptations in honey bee populations. Populations of pollinators face multiple threats and there is a wide range of response options drawing from Indigenous and local knowledge and science (IPBES, 2016a).[…]
  • […]Multiple causes are linked to the decline in pollinators such as land use change, intensive agricultural management, risks associated with pesticides and particular inputs (insecticides and herbicides) associated with Genetically Modified (GM) crops, pathogens, pests and predators, climate change, invasive alien species and the various interactions among these threats.” […]
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Photo by Robert Bensted-Smith

 

 

The effects of climate change on a mega-diverse country: predicted shifts in mammalian species richness and turnover in continental Ecuador

Would you like to learn more about the effects of climate change in Ecuador? check this article out! My good friend Paula Iturralde- Polit and her team found on their study that in Ecuador “all scenarios predicted that climate change will have effects on species richness distribution patterns” and that “some species may not be able to shift their ranges fast enough to track their suitable climates.” Really interesting evidence to take into consideration when designing resilient conservation  and adaptation strategies…

Read the full study here: Iturralde-Pólit_et_al-2017-Biotropica

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Happy reading!

Urban Agriculture and biodiversity

Did you know that recent studies show that urban ecosystems present a higher richness of species than intensively managed agricultural ecosystems?  This could suggest that the conditions in the cities are giving these species a place to live without the threats of pesticides, disturbance from machinery or clear cuts after harvesting… isn’t that great? our cities are giving biodiversity a home!

With a growing population, the food demand will also increase. And maybe using urban spaces for food production could be an alternative to avoid agricultural intensification and enhance urban biodiversity. Boom! what a combination! 😉Lettuce

Cuba is an example worth mentioning…Evidence shows that the country has 8000 agro-ecological gardens managed without any chemical pesticide or fertiliser. Such gardens promote the diversity of crops and species, recycle and uses local inputs, and produce considerable amounts of food. In the case of La Habana city, these agro-ecological systems provided with 8500 tons of food, including 7, 5 millions of eggs, and 3650 tons of meat in 1996. Not bad right?

In a pot, in a garden or in an allotment close to your place…lets’s do it!

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Urban biodiversity conservation

Why bother with urban biodiversity? … I can mention at least four reasons for knowing, caring and doing something to protect  all the species in our cities….

1.- cities offer an enormous niche and an opportunity for biodiversity conservation

2.-  urban settlements are inevitably growing in size and density and are one of the major threats to nature conservation.

3.- cities tend to be located in important biodiversity hotspots

4.- urban ecosystems provide a platform for citizens to understand the natural processes that govern global sustainability and provide them with several different social and psychological benefits.

Wanna do something about it? Get involved in urban planning and development in your home city! There is a lot of room for biologists, ecologist and conservationists in general. For example, green infrastructures such as green roofs and walls for food production, carbon sequestration, regulation of temperature could be the perfect scenario for the restoration of ecosystems, and the reintroduction of some native plants, birds, small mammals, insects that otherwise would not have a chance to co-exist with cities. It is true that many native species won’t resist to urban conditions but such technologies have the potential to restore the ecosystem’s functioning and to reconnect cities with the natural cycles.

How many species live next you? do you know them? Go out and explore!!!!! See below a beauty you can find in the North of Quito-Ecuador  😉

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Hope and innovation for conservation

There are great examples of successful conservation and sustainability efforts around the world that give us hope (Balmford, 2012; Bernard, 2010) and demonstrate that things can get better and will get better.IMG_0880 However, it is time to be honest in tackling the root causes of the problem from a conservation perspective.

Waste and our current consumption and production patterns are the major drivers for biodiversity loss, pollution, poverty, climate change (Orr, 1994).

What if we think  out-of the box for substituting something with nothing (Pauli, 2010)? and we create solutions that move away from pollution and waste and that use the resources that we already have?

The Blue Economy (Pauli, 2010) is a great example  showing that it IS possible to do so. In a nutshell, Gunther Pauli proposes the use of the waste produced by the coffee industry to grow mushrooms to feed vulnerable communities. Producers could grow coffee in a way that is compatible with biodiversity and responsible with the producer’s wellbeing. Responsible coffee drinkers could pay a fair price to producers, and in addition, new entrepreneurs could use the coffee waste to grow mushrooms to feed people (Pauli, 2010). The result would be that we wouldn’t need more land to grow more coffee or more resources for the creation of more goods, more jobs and more money. Check out more about this idea here.

With the same reasoning , there are many other examples of innovation in conservation. It is essential that we keep innovating our actions to tackle waste, production and consumption in the Anthropocene era (Steffen et al., 2011).  Keep checking the blog!!! new ideas coming soon… 🙂

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No estaba muerto… andaba de parranda ;)

Increíble pero cierto! El Jambato negro del páramo de Ecuador que se pensaba estaba extinto fue recientemente encontrado! Lee más sobre la historia del Atelopus ignescens que resucitó aquí 

“Un apasionado cura Salesiano y una familia campesina, llenos de fé, sonaron las campanas que anunciaban la presencia del Jambatiug, Caballito de Dios o Castillo en tierras que por ahora conviene mantenerlas en el anonimato y que oportunamente serán conocidas. A su llamado acudimos, incrédulos, Giovanni Onore y el autor de este artículo, luego se sumó Elicio E. Tapia. Ahí estaba el jambatito negro azabache, tal y como lo vimos en aquellos tiempos de juventud” (Coloma, 2016).

 

 

‪#‎conservacion ‪#‎Ecuador

 

‘While the rainforest is politically divided, the biome is one’ – Kakabadse

by: Miren Gutierrez, CDKN Global | on: 8am, June 11, 2015

Find the original version at CDKN website

Yolanda Kakabadse – the indefatigable defender of sustainability – is a former Ecuadorian Minister of Environment and the current International President of WWF. Kakabadse also founded CDKN alliance partner Fundacion Futuro Latinamericano, is a member of CDKN’s Network Council and has been involved in the Amazon Security initiative. In this interview with Miren Gutierrez, she explores the challenges facing Amazonian countries in managing this key resource.

You have been reported as saying that people, and more importantly decision-makers, pay more attention to sudden weather-related disasters than to biodiversity loss in Amazonian countries? Is that so? What can be done?

Sudden weather related disasters create a sense of urgency. They usually come along with casualties, people’s losing their housing and livelihoods, damaged infrastructure and many other impacts that affect a society’s dynamic. These events create commotion and the need for immediate government action; there is no discussion about the importance for decision-makers to pay close attention to weather disasters since they are becoming more frequent and intense with climate change. Implementing adaptation plans that reduce their population’s risk and vulnerability is a priority and action is needed now

The need to urgently tackle biodiversity loss is equally important. Yet, this issue seems to be a laggard in the government priority agenda. Most people do not realise the direct relation between biodiversity and our well-being. Biodiversity plays a key role in creating resilient ecosystems and providing vital services such as water, clean air and climate regulation. Additionally, for thousands of years, species have inspired our cultures and helped us build our identity. A world only inhabited by humans is unviable.Erotylidae- Yasuni National Park

The Stockholm Resilience Centre has identified 9 planetary boundaries within which humans can live safely. According to their studies, we have transgressed the biodiversity boundary to such point that we might be entering the sixth extinction phase in the planet. Sadly, humans drive this one. The latest Living Planet Report by WWF affirms that the state of the world’s biodiversity is worse than ever: during the last 40 years vertebrate species have halved. Most of these losses are occurring in the most biodiverse regions in the world. In the Amazon continent, the report showed an 83% loss of the species analyzed. So if you look at scientific evidence, you will see that it is truly dramatic what is happening with biodiversity and the ecosystems on which they depend; this destruction is one of the most important causes of the devastating sudden weather events we are experiencing. Unfortunately, we are still unable to feel the urgency and this inaction will bring irreversible consequences.

CDKN has reported a ‘human security crisis’ caused by climate change and ‘mismanagement of natural resources’ in the Amazon. As habitat destruction trends interact with climate change, the concern is that the Amazon will be caught up in a set of “feedback loops” that could dramatically speed up the pace of forest loss and degradation and bring the Amazon Biome to a point of no return, reports WWF. How are initiatives such as Amazon Security initiative going to contribute to improving the situation?

Climate change is the greatest challenge we will face in this century. Especially, because it will impact health, water, food and energy security and will increase vulnerability and risk for the region’s growing economies and populations. Climate change will transform the Amazon ecosystem. If climate impacts are not managed to avoid getting caught in a set of feedback loops, the transformation will be amplified until there is a point of no return. If we do nothing, climate change will bring devastating consequences and neither the Amazon nor the world will be as we know it. If we avoid this scenario and work together to build a resilient ecosystem, Amazonia can help us adapt better to climate change.

A rainforest not only stores carbon, it has a natural ability to regulate and stabilise the climate. Just imagine the power of Amazonia, the largest rainforest on Earth. Protecting the Amazon can protect the climate. yasuni 169In fact, that is precisely what the Amazon Vision seeks: to strengthen the Protected Areas Systems of Amazonia shared by Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela, in order to increase the ecosystem’s resilience to the effects of climate change and to maintain the provision of environmental goods and services benefiting biodiversity, local communities and economies. The Amazon Security agenda will contribute to tackling climate change since it intends to guarantee water, food, health, energy and of course, climate security throughout the Amazon biome.

What are the concrete obstacles right now to guarantee water security and protection in the Amazon? You have stressed the need to protect and guarantee access to water.

Water is the central and most important resource to guarantee health, energy and food security. A healthy water system is vital for providing clean drinking water, agricultural production and fishery, hydropower generation and regulation of water borne diseases. Water is the nexus that bounds everything. However, agriculture, cattle ranching and energy generation threaten water security through pollution and flow disruption. Hence, all securities are interdependent: If one of them is at risk, probably all of them are.

The Amazon is the largest river system in the world with more than 100.000 km of rivers and streams. The Amazon River on its own discharges an average of 6,300 km3 of water to the Atlantic Ocean annually, nearly 20% of global freshwater that flows into the oceans. Additionally, the rainforest releases 8 trillion tons of water vapor into the atmosphere each year and transports it thousands of kilometers away. Because of that, the Amazon plays a key role regulating the climate system around the continent.

In the midst of abundance, one would think that water security is not an issue but in fact, it is a serious one. Increasingly, water is facing more and more threats. Currently, more than 250 new hydropower dams are planned for the Amazon region. If they all go forward as planned, only three free-flowing tributaries of the Amazon River will remain, compromising the river network and the provision of ecosystem services to the societies and economies in the region. Besides, mining exploitation and pesticides from agriculture pollute the river system with heavy metals and toxins that are ingested by fish and later by humans. Furthermore, increased deforestation and land use change impact water availability since the forest recycles nearly 25% of the water it receives. All of these pressures are the main obstacles to guarantee water protection in the Amazon and hence, all other vital securities.

Specifically, how does the initiative recommend responding to extreme droughts that were once unthinkable in this region?

Extreme droughts that were once unthinkable in the region are now more frequent, intense and unpredictable. They are exacerbated by climate change and by the fact that the forest can no longer respond to this phenomenon and regenerate itself in the same way it used to. Future scenarios are less optimistic: it is projected that if warming trends continue, Amazonia will suffer from severe droughts every other year by 2025.

In the last decade the most severe droughts occurred in 2005 and 2010. During the first, 1.9 million km2 of the Brazilian Amazon were affected causing crop losses of 139 million USD, an 18.5% increase in healthcare costs due to more respiratory diseases and other environmental and social losses valued in 100 million USD. During the latter, 3 million km2 of rainforest were severely affected and economic losses were even worse. Forests fires increased dramatically (200% in 2010) accelerating forest degradation and leaving the Amazon even more vulnerable to mitigate the drought.

How to deal with extreme natural phenomenon such as droughts? Not difficult: protect the ecosystem so it can regenerate itself without fatigue. In order to do so, we must halt deforestation. Currently, the Amazon is the biggest deforestation front in the world and interventions are urgently needed to prevent a large-scale, irreversible ecological disaster. WWF estimates that 27 per cent of the Amazon biome will be without trees by 2030 if the current rate of deforestation continues. Without forest cover, droughts will increase and its devastating effects will worsen.

The majority of the Amazonian forest is contained within Brazil (60% of the rainforest), followed by Peru with 13%, Colombia with 10%, and with minor amounts in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana. Is this variety a political challenge? Is there a good level of cooperation between these countries? Do they share similar concerns or competing demands?

While the rainforest is politically divided, the biome is one. What happens in a country will have an impact in all Amazonia. Therefore, it is a common interest of all Amazonian nations to manage the rainforest sustainably since they have a joint dependence on its natural resources and a joint exposure to regional-scale risks.yasuni 152

We know that water, health, food and energy security are interdependent and that they are all vulnerable to what happens in nine different countries. This seems as a huge challenge. Actually, it is. However, it is also an opportunity to strengthen public policies at a regional level. The atmosphere, rivers, species are indifferent to political boundaries and that is why all nine countries must have a Pan-Amazon vision rather than a narrow country focused one. This means, sharing information to help informed decision making, mapping and monitoring areas where water, energy, food or health security are most vulnerable, creating a regional development agenda, strengthening protected areas systems, having common basin management policies and a joint zero net deforestation target, among others. Only by having a common and coherent agenda they will be able to overcome all the pressures the Amazon is facing and ensure the wellbeing of the region.

Climate change acting in combination with biodiversity loss has had social impacts already. One of the conclusions of a report called ‘Amazonia Security Agenda’, published by CDKN and Fundación Futuro Latinoamericano, is that ‘widespread inequity in Amazonia will be exacerbated by threats to the securities, and is likely to lead to increased social conflict unless addressed.’ Is there any plan to address this challenge?

A huge amount of wealth is being produced in the Amazon: oil extraction, mining, agriculture production, cattle ranching and hydropower produce billions of dollars in revenues annually. For instance, in 2012 Brazil received US$8.8 billion a year from iron extraction in the Pará state, Bolivia US$3.8 billion for natural gas and Ecuador US$8.9 billion for oil in 2010. Yet, little of that wealth stays in the Amazon. Ironically, in the land of plenty, local communities suffer from high insecurity. Despite being surrounded by water, few Amazonians have access to a proper water supply, treatment and a basic sanitation infrastructure. Hence, they are particularly vulnerable to pollution and to everything that comes along with it: disease, malnutrition, among others.

According to a report published by A Articulação Regional Amazônica (ARA) http://araamazonia.org/: 60% of people in the Bolivian Amazon, 37% in Ecuador, 23% in Peru and 17% in Brazil were estimated to be below the extreme poverty line in 2011. Inequity and vulnerability will accentuate if increasing threats to food, health water and energy securities are not properly addressed. Changing this trend without shifting the development paradigm will be impossible. All Amazon countries should adopt policies that secure equal and sustainable access to food, water, energy and land. Indigenous consultation rights should be respected before approving a development project that will impact directly or indirectly their territories. According to the Amazon Environmental Information Network (RAISG), 11% of oil blocks and 18% of mining concessions overlapped recognised indigenous territories in 2012.

If these challenges are not taken serious at a local, national and regional level, land conflicts will increase, inequity will rise and the Amazon ecosystem will have to bear even more pressures affecting everyone who benefits from its services but especially the most vulnerable and poor.

This is a crucial year in the life on this planet: in December we will see the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris and the UN summit for the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda in New York. What do you expect, realistically speaking?

We are witnessing a great and inevitable transition towards a sustainable development model. Indeed, 2015 will be a landmark year in this process. In September, countries will adopt the post-2015 development agenda and the sustainable development goals at the UN Summit. Three months later, Paris will host the Climate Change Conference (COP21) where a new global agreement will be signed. These two historic events will set a roadmap for that great transition.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals will set targets for governments and redirect public policies and investment towards accomplishing them. The same will occur with the new climate agreement. We expect the Paris agreement to set commitments ambitious enough to ensure we stay below 2ºC warming, the temperature limit for a safe climate future. It will send a clear message to all the stakeholders in the world: climate change is a top priority in the world and everyone must do its fair share to address this global problem. Governments must take seriously the path towards a low carbon economy, business must lower their emissions while becoming energy efficient, investors must divest from fossil fuels and civil society must engage and change their carbon intensive lifestyle. That is what I expect: for everyone to be aware that the world is changing and that we must take part in that inevitable transition.