This is the first post in Human Nature’s three-part “From the Ground Up” blog series, which spotlights a few of the ways CI is scaling up our work to have the global conservation impact we need.
A giant panda in China’s Sichuan province. In addition to wildlife habitat, China’s forests provide fresh water, wild food products, medicinal herbs and other benefits for communities. (© Rod Mast)
CI’s Conservation Stewards Program (CSP) bridges conservation and development through innovative conservation agreements developed in partnership with communities who own or rely on natural resources. Today on Human Nature, CI’s Eduard Niesten shares some good news from China: the district government’s adoption of the conservation agreement model.
The high mountains and deep valleys of China’s Lixian County — located in northwest Sichuan province — are home to the town of Mashan, a community of nearly 400 people.
Forests account for more than 50% of the county’s total area, providing fresh water, wild food products, medicinal herbs and other benefits for Lixian residents, as well as critical habitat for the giant panda and other species. However, these forests are threatened by clearing for agriculture, as well as unregulated hunting and collection of timber, mushrooms and other forest products.
This week CI staff are converging in Sweden at World Water Week, one of the biggest international water conferences. We’re speaking, organizing sessions and workshops, and meeting with decision-makers from all over the world. Much of the discussion is focused on dams — or, more correctly, water infrastructure.
Potential dam site on the Beni River in Bolivia. Although dams currently supply people all over the world with power, they can also have serious negative impacts on ecosystems. (© CI/photo by Bailey Evans)
Why? The simple reason is that we cannot talk about conservation or sustainable development without also talking about where to locate, how to build and how to operate dams.
As part of my current internship with CI and the Alliance for Global Water Adaptation, I have been spending many hours researching dams. It came as no surprise to find that the answers to the questions above are quite complex.
The landscape of Moyobamba, the capital city of Peru’s San Martín region, where the EVA project will take place. (© CI/photo by Hedley Grantham)
As I wait for my early morning flight to Peru to take off, I am handed El Comercio, Peru’s national newspaper. The main headline translates as “GDP projections forecast a stable economy.” I flip through the paper, eventually finding a well-hidden article entitled “CO2 concentration reaches 400 parts per million in the atmosphere.”
The contrast between these two articles — the first extremely optimistic about economic growth, the second predicting an alarming future if humanity does not act immediately to reduce greenhouse gas emissions — sums up exactly why our trip to Peru is so important.
I am going there as part of a team working on the Ecosystem Values Assessment and Accounting (EVA) project, a collaboration between CI’s Moore Center for Science and Oceans, CI-Peru, the World Bank and the Peruvian government.
The impetus behind our project is this: As long as economies fail to account for humanity’s reliance on nature, they will never accurately reflect how well or how badly a country is performing.
This week, the world’s leading freshwater experts are gathering in Stockholm for World Water Week, an international conference dedicated to discussing potential solutions for some of our biggest environmental challenges. Today on Human Nature, CI’s Rebecca Field spotlights one region often overlooked for its global significance: the Guiana Shield.
Aerial view of Kaieteur Falls, Guyana. The Guiana Shield region contains about 25% of the planet’s remaining intact forest and produces as much as 10–15% of the world’s fresh water. (© CI/photo by John Martin)
This past spring, CI’s visual storytelling team traveled to the Guiana Shield, a tropical wilderness spanning six countries in South America. This region contains about 25% of the planet’s remaining intact forest and produces as much as 10–15% of the world’s fresh water.
Our trip, made possible through the Visual Storytelling Alliance, a partnership between CI and Sony, included stops in both Suriname and Guyana. Throughout the expedition, we visited and filmed several innovative new projects that are pursuing green development in the region, from community-based ecotourism development to ecosystem services mapping.
While flying in small planes throughout Suriname, all I could see below us was forest and fresh water. In a country where more than 90% of the land is covered by pristine rainforest, Suriname’s watersheds and forests are incredibly vital to not only the well-being of its people, but also to the world at large.
Mark Erdmann was involved in the exciting discovery of a new species of “walking” shark, which was announced this week. Today on Human Nature, he discusses how this species fits into Indonesia’s shifting attitude toward shark conservation.
Recently discovered species of “walking” shark in Indonesia. (© CI/photo by Mark Erdmann)
If you asked me a year ago about the long-term future of shark populations in Indonesia, I probably would have responded: “Bleak.”
For nearly three decades, Indonesia has led the world in the export of dried shark fins and other products from elasmobranchs (sharks, fins and skates). The country averages over 100,000 tons of sharks and rays landed each year — 10–13% of the global catch! In the 21 years I’ve been working in Indonesia, I’ve seen many of my favorite reefs stripped of their shark populations. Indeed, it has become quite rare to see sharks on most dives in Indonesia.
But what an amazing difference a year can make! In that time, I have seen Indonesia take incredible steps to protect these fascinating species that help keep our oceans healthy — even if we don’t yet know of their existence. This week’s announcement of the new species of “walking” shark can truly be said to herald a promising future for Indonesia’s sharks and rays.
Social flycatcher in Costa Rica. (© Shelby Childress-Riha)
I awoke to a clap of thunder so loud I thought the world would end. Outside I knew howler monkeys were huddled in trees, and that in eight cabinas around La Selva Biological Station, science teachers’ eyes were snapping open as well. The next morning at breakfast, everyone cheerily asked each other if they’d slept well. It turns out that we had all been awake for nearly two hours as the epic thunderstorm raged.
Despite thunder, rain showers, pesky insects and hot, humid days, the 16 teachers (from Mississippi, Texas, Illinois and California) who participated in this year’s ECO Classroom were endlessly cheerful and energetic during our 10-day stay in Costa Rica.
Kēhau on the bow of Haunui (New Zealand voyaging canoe) in Auckland. (Photo courtesy of Kēhau Springer)
Kēhau Springer recently traveled to New Zealand and the Cook Islands as part of a program designed to help Pacific Islanders share their experiences managing community fisheries.
Sitting on Haunui, the Maori vaka (canoe) in Auckland Harbor, reminded me of the day we greeted her along with the other six vaka in Hilo Bay in June 2011. What a sight to see: seven Pacific voyaging canoes in Hawai‘i.
Of course, the Pacific Voyagers journey was not the first ocean crossing made by Pacific Islanders — it was one of many that my ancestors began traveling many centuries ago. Sailing on Haunui for the second time was amazing — this time in her home ocean in Aotearoa (the Maori name for New Zealand).
As the Hawai‘i Fish Trust works toward creating a more seafood-secure Hawai‘i, part of my job is to help communities expand their skills at marine resource stewardship. One way to do this is to look at what our Polynesian “cousins” are doing throughout the Pacific to integrate science, culture and environment into their community-based resource management and policy, and find ways to incorporate it into our work in Hawai‘i. I and several colleagues from the University of Hawai‘i had spent months preparing for this journey.
This is the second half of a two-part blog post. Read part one.
Searching for fish in Timor-Leste’s Nino Konis Santana National Park, where the government is working to protect the reef which supports the livelihoods of thousands of people living on the coast. (© World Wildlife Fund, Inc. / Matthew Abbott)
I recently visited seven of the 13 districts in Timor-Leste, my island nation home nestled in the heart of the Coral Triangle. Working with a team of NOAA researchers, I was there to undertake ecological research and meet with coastal communities.
After centuries of occupation by countries such as Portugal, the Netherlands and Indonesia, Timor-Leste only gained its independence in 2002. One of the first districts we visited was Oecussi. Historically, this is where the Portuguese first set foot on the island of Timor. Today, it’s one of the smaller, less developed districts of Timor-Leste.
Although the government census says that there are 160 fishermen in Oecussi, one thing we have learnt from working with the communities here is that this number is probably much higher. Many people do not primarily identify themselves as fishermen, even though fishing plays a vital part in generating food and income. This suggests that the fisheries sector is more important in Timor-Leste than the data indicates. Continue reading
Ted Parker (left) and Al Gentry in a helicopter in Ecuador. (© CI/photo by Kim Awbrey)
Twenty years ago this month, the conservation community and the world suffered a tragic loss when a small plane flying out of the coastal city of Guayaquil, Ecuador crashed into a cloud-covered mountain.
Out of the seven people on board, four were killed. Among them were two amazing individuals, the likes of whom we will probably never see again: ornithologist Ted Parker and botanist Al Gentry.
Ted Parker was, with no exaggeration, the greatest field ornithologist ever — a man who could identify 500 bird species in an Andean forest while wearing a blindfold, a man whose knowledge base included the full vocal repertoires of more than 4,000 Western Hemisphere bird species, a man who identified a new species of parrot by sound alone. He was a genius in every sense of the word.
Al Gentry was Ted’s equal on the plant side, a phenomenal field botanist who could identify hundreds of tree species from nothing more than their dried leaves squeezed together between newspapers in a plant press. He was a fearless collector who once got lost in the Amazon for several days, finally found his way back into camp, grabbed a plateful of cold breakfast and went running off back into the trackless forest to find an interesting plant that he had stumbled upon during his ordeal.
Both of these men were not mere scientists; they were also incredibly effective conservationists, individuals who saw the power of science to stimulate conservation action and create new protected areas in some of the most important areas on Earth for biodiversity and ecosystem services.
For thousands of years, indigenous peoples have been the stewards of the lands and waters where they live. As the world struggles to protect vital natural areas that we all depend on, their support and insight is critical for success.
Meeting in a Kayapó community in the Brazilian Amazon. (© CI/photo by Haroldo Castro)
Today, on the U.N.’s International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, CI is celebrating another important milestone: this year marks the 10th anniversary of our Indigenous and Traditional Peoples Program.
Over the last few decades, indigenous peoples and their allies have made significant progress in ensuring that their rights are recognized and respected, and that they have the tools and means to choose their own development path. Here are 10 successes from the past 10 years in which CI has been privileged to participate.