- Published on Friday, 15 June 2012 00:00
By A Web design Company
Biodiversity is in decline in the ecosystems of Asia and the Pacific; the rate of species loss is about twice the global average.
The region, in fact, has a “biocapacity deficit,” meaning, it uses more biologically productive land and sea to support the consumption of food, fiber and energy, according to a new report from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
The gap between the ecological footprint, or the demand for natural resources, and the environment’s ability to replenish those resources, or its biocapacity, is widening, the report points out.
For the last 35 years, it says, global demand on natural capital has exceeded the ability of many ecosystem services to regenerate. Overall, the biocapacity available per person in 2008 was two-thirds of that available in 1960.
In Asia and the Pacific, each person currently uses an average of 1.6 global hectares (gha) of biologically productive area of land or sea annually for their consumption needs. However, only 0.9 gha of biocapacity is available per person in the region.
The shortfall of 0.8 gha per person represents a “biocapacity deficit” that can only be made up by importing natural resources or by continuing to deplete natural capital, says the report released in early June.
“For most countries this gap is widening,” the report warns. “This deficit has significant economic and environmental implications, including rising commodity prices and shortages of key resources.”
“Strategies will be needed that result in more sustainable use of biocapacity and greater efficiency in the use of resources,” it says. “Without such measures, a growing deficit in the region will result in further depletion of natural capital, loss of biodiversity, and loss of ecosystem services.”
Asia and the Pacific has some of the largest and most diverse ecosystems on earth. The Coral Triangle boasts an astonishing 3,000 species of fish and harbors 76 percent of the world’s coral species.
In the Greater Mekong, 1,200 new species have been discovered in the past 20 years. In that same time span, scientists have discovered 600 new species on the island of Borneo.
The Himalayan mountain range is another biodiversity hotspot with an incredible spectrum of flora and fauna, and the Eastern Himalayas are the source of freshwater for one billion people.
In these regions, four initiatives demonstrate the commitment of governments: the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security; the Greater Mekong Subregion Core Environment Program; the Heart of Borneo Initiative; and the Living Himalayas Framework for Cooperation.
The report focuses on these four major regions and initiatives where cooperative action is making a difference.
“The widespread loss of natural ecosystems and biodiversity is much more than a conservation issue,” the report observes. “Natural ecosystems provide socially and economically valuable services – such as food and fiber resources, clean water and climate regulation – that are fundamental to human welfare, but are often overlooked in decision-making processes.”
For example, more than 120 million people in the Coral Triangle depend directly on local marine and coastal resources for their income, livelihoods and food security. International fisheries exports from the region are estimated to be worth more than $3 billion a year.
But over 40 percent of the coral reefs and mangroves have disappeared in the Coral Triangle over the last 40 years, resulting in declining fish stocks.
Often referred to as the Amazon of the Seas, the Coral Triangle is the planet’s richest center of marine life and coral reef diversity, covering a vast area of ocean that spans Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste.
United in their commitment to address threats to the region associated with overfishing, pollution, and climate change, these six countries established the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security which has produced important collaborative action plans to sustainably manage the region for future generations.
Key areas of focus include managing priority seascapes and networks of marine protected areas, applying ecosystem based approaches to fisheries management, addressing climate change and protecting threatened species.
All six governments collaborated on developing regional and national plans designed to guide the implementation of future activities on country and local levels.
Collectively, the plans provide frameworks for addressing threats to the natural capital of the Coral Triangle and has resulted in a number of activities showing early signs of success.
One of the goals of a Regional Plan of Action is to identify and designate priority seascapes as a focus for cooperative management and targeted investments.
The Sulu–Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion (SSME) has been recognized as one of these seascapes, and the governments of Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines have worked together to develop comprehensive action plans to address threats to diversity and productivity.
As the ultimate driver of resource use, consumption patterns must also be addressed, the report says.
“Creating and expanding markets that reward and ultimately demand sustainable practices, such as through product certification schemes, will allow buyers to make more responsible choices.”
“Whether those buyers are diners in seafood restaurants in Hong Kong, China or supermarket chains in North America, they can, through their decisions, send a signal to the marketplace,” the report says.
The challenge faced by all countries of Asia and the Pacific is how to achieve the levels of economic development needed to ease poverty without degrading the natural capital and ecosystem services that underpin livelihoods and the natural environment, the report says.