SciDev.Net talks to Sylvia Earle, scientist, oceanographer, explorer, about her hopes for oceans at the Rio+20 conference in Brazil in 2012.
The oceans are a life-support system and they are under severe threat, says Sylvia Earle. That’s why she wants to ensure that they are on the agenda of next year’s international conference on sustainable development in Rio de Janeiro.
Earle is an oceanographer and explorer, president and CEO of Deep Ocean Technology and Deep Ocean Engineering in California, US; founder of Mission Blue, which aims to establish protected marine areas around the world; and former chief scientist of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. She has been called “Her Deepness” and “The Sturgeon General”. After speaking at the Eye on Earth Summit in Abu Dhabi (12-15 December 2011) she told SciDev.Net about her oceanic hopes and fears.
A Ugandan report suggests that policymakers’ interest in science and technology is growing. But they need support to turn it into action.
If there was an easy route between scientific evidence and policymaking, last week’s UN Climate Change Conference (COP 17) in Durban, South Africa, would surely have reflected the scientific consensus and ended in a clear-cut global agreement on immediate steps to curtail carbon emissions.
But, as the fractious debates made clear, the real world does not work that way. Scientists and politicians operate within different epistemological frameworks. This often means that what appears as an imperative course of action to one group is merely a potential — and not necessarily desirable — way forward to the other.
In the developed world, factors such as economic or political self-interest can often be blamed for the gap between evidence and policymaking. In the case of global warming, for example, most of those who continue to challenge the scientific evidence live in countries (such as the United States) that stand to lose most from curbs on carbon emissions.
A paper by Sumaila and his co-workers was recently published in the Nature Climate Change and is based on extensive review of the existing knowledge on the responses of marine ecosystems to ocean and climate changes, and how these changes are expected to affect the economics of global marine fisheries. It also describes approaches that can be used to adapt to these changes. The paper also focuses on climate change (long-term changes in mean conditions), as well as on long-term changes in the level of climate variability (cyclical changes, for example, annual, decadal). The paper also review studies that investigate the responses of marine ecosystems and fisheries to climate variability to reveal the potential implications of climate change for fisheries. Furthermore, it discusses other environmental changes resulting from human-induced greenhouse-gas emissions that affect marine ecosystems directly, for example, ocean acidification. Below is the abstract of the paper
Global marine fisheries are underperforming economically because of overfishing, pollution and habitat degradation. Added to these threats is the looming challenge of climate change. Observations, experiments and simulation models show that climate change would result in changes in primary productivity, shifts in distribution and changes in the potential yield of exploited marine species, resulting in impacts on the economics of fisheries worldwide. Despite the gaps in understanding climate change effects on fisheries, there is sufficient scientific information that highlights the need to implement climate change mitigation and adaptation policies to minimize impacts on fisheries.
Citation: Sumaila, U.R., Cheung, W.W. L., Lam, V.W. Y., Pauly, D. and Herrick, S. 2011. Climate change impacts on the biophysics and economics of world fisheries. DOI: 10.1038/NCLIMATE1301
By Nirmal Shah
The latest update of “The Red List of Threatened Species of the World” by the World Conservation Union is bad news for conservation efforts in Seychelles. The Red List contains assessments of all the species in the world thought to be in danger and now we find that the Coco de Mer, our incredible botanical icon, is more likely to become extinct than previously thought. Assessments of most of the endemic flowering plants in the granitic Seychelles islands show that of the 79 endemic species found in our islands, 77% are at risk of extinction. Most of these species have been assessed for the first time, but the status of the Coco de Mer has been changed from Vulnerable to Endangered. This is a much higher risk category than what it was in previously.
The Coco de Mer is estimated to presently occupy an area which is less than 100 square kilometers and is restricted to fewer than six locations. There has been an irreversible decline in numbers in the areas normally occupied by the species and it has been estimated that the population has been reduced by more than 30% over three generations. Most of the areas where it once grew have been degraded by fire, both man made and wildfire. As a result, there has been a loss in the quality of its habitat especially on Curieuse island. Human development in areas once occupied by the species is more bad news.
The assessment also says that continuing decline in the population by more than 30% may continue within a maximum of 100 years if the same amount of exploitation continues and invasive diseases and parasites are introduced. The current levels at which the Coco de Mer is being exploited are unsustainable. Illegal harvesting of nuts adds to the problem. It is thought that the amount of nuts harvested has more than doubled in the past 11 years.
The Coco de Mer also has properties that do not lend itself to propagation especially when under threat. It has a slow growth rate, a limited ability to disperse its huge seed and has seeds that are sometimes not viable.
The assessment puts the population at a total of 8,282 mature trees which are mostly found within three subpopulations -1,440 individuals in the Vallée de Mai, 1,380 individuals in Fond Ferdinand and 1,750 individuals on Curieuse.
The successful conservation of threatened birds in Seychelles led by Birdlife International, Nature Seychelles and the Seychelles government with the collaboration of private island owners has proven that we can indeed save species in danger. What about the Coco de Mer? What can be done?
Originally published in The People as “Can we lose our national tree?”
Payment for ecosystem services (PES) are voluntary transactions where payments are made to land managers and others who undertake actions that increase the quantity and quality of a desired ecosystem service which benefit specific or general users. Some of the ecosystem services considered in current PES schemes include: carbon sequestration, watershed protection and biodiversity enhancement.
The East African Forum for Payment for Ecosystem Services (EAFPES) was formed in Nov 2009 in Mombasa, Kenya; in response to a growing interest for a network to promote PES principles in the region. Founding members included government agencies, NGO’s and community groups interested in promoting PES in Eastern Africa. The goal is to ensure good communication on the science and practice of payments for ecosystem services and to help build PES capacity in East Africa.
Although there are existing PES networks in the region, there is none with a coastal focus. EAFPES therefore seeks to complement current PES activities by stimulating project development in coastal areas. Specifically, EAFPES aims to:
- collate and disseminate knowledge pertaining to coastal PES
- connect stakeholders and the research community and inform the general public
- provide practical information for emerging PES schemes, including tools and experiences, as well as information on funding opportunities
EAFPES functions continually and globally through the EAFPES website (http://www.eafpes.org) coupled with meetings and workshops. The EAFPES website has an interactive member forum for debating issues, posing questions to experts and for flagging PES ideas on the Discussion page. The website also has a blog where one can post comments or articles after registering as a member. Individuals or organisations who are already engaged in work on ecosystem services or PES can send articles on your experiences to the website administrator, disseminating what you are doing and sharing your experiences with our readership of interested parties in the region. It is hoped that the forum will enable members to learn from each other’s successes and failures and with that be able to steer fellow members in the right direction on PES related issues. The forum belongs to all stakeholders of coastal and terrestrial resources.
The EAFPES website was formally launched on 28th October 2011 and it now seeks membership from ecosystem services stakeholders and other interested parties in the region. Currently, the secretariat is hosted by the Kenyan Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) in Mombasa.
For more information, please visit http://www.eafpes.org
The Swedish Institute announces scholarships for international students. The Swedish Institute Study Scholarships are targeted at highly qualified students from Bolivia, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Moçambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.
About 60 scholarships altogether will be awarded for higher education studies in Sweden, mainly on second-cycle (Master’s) level. A few scholarships will be awarded on first-cycle (undergraduate) level. The grants will cover both living costs and tuition fees.
www.universityadmissions.se is the central online application service where you can apply for several programs around Sweden. The online application opens December 2011 for the fall semester of 2012.
For more and detailed information about application procedures and deadlines for The Swedish Institute Study Scholarships please visit our website www.studyinsweden.se.
African Guest Researchers’ Scholarship Programme 2013 at the Nordic Africa Institute in Uppsala, Sweden
Deadline: Applications must be in by 1 April 2012
The African Guest Researchers’ Scholarship Programme is directed at scholars in Africa engaged in research on the African continent. Female researchers are especially encouraged to apply for this scholarship.
The aim of the scholarship is to provide opportunities for scholars to pursue their own research projects and to facilitate use of the Institute’s library collections on contemporary Africa. Another aim is to promote cooperation between Nordic and African researchers.
The Guest Researchers are invited to stay at the Institute for two or three months. The scholarship includes a return air fare (economy class), accommodation, subsistence allowance, and a shared office equipped with computers/MS Word.
Applications are invited from scholars preferably with research projects related to current thematic research clusters at the Institute:
1. Rural and agrarian Change, Property and Resources
2. Conflict, Security and Democratic Transformation
3. Globalization, Trade and Regional Integration
4. Urban Dynamics
For information about the clusters, please visit: www.nai.uu.se/research/
For more information, including directions for application and application form, please visit: www.nai.uu.se/scholarships/african/
Send your application by email to: inga‐firstname.lastname@example.org
On the subject line of your email, please write:
“APPLICATION African Guest Researchers’ Scholarship”
Deadline for applications
Applications must be in by 1 April 2012
(For positions in 2013)
Forests for firewood, streams for irrigation, wetlands for flood defence: we all need natural systems to support and protect us, but it is many of the world’s poorest people who are most dependent on these ecosystem services. How can these systems be protected in ways that leave everyone better off? This question is driving a series of research projects under a programme called Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA), which runs until 2017 and is supported by DFID’s Research and Evidence Division, ESRC and NERC.
The idea of marrying green and pro-poor initiatives is gaining credence in policy circles, and will form the backbone for the discussions at the RIO+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development next year. Such integration requires a good understanding of the interplay between the many environmental, economic and social factors involved and ESPA is starting to fill the knowledge gaps that exist at these disciplinary divides. The programme began with a series of broad situation analyses that identified the knowledge needs and has recently commissioned 18 short-term research projects in Africa, Amazonia, South Asia and East Asia. ESPA is now in the process of commissioning large multi-regional consortium projects that aim to build capabilities amongst researchers and users of ESPA research to better integrate ecosystem services into development processes.
ESPA’s research is spread globally across the developing world. In Kenya, for example, ESPA scientists are helping the world’s first carbon credit project for mangrove forests by developing a robust assessment of the true economic and social value of these coastal resources; ESPA is also funding projects in other countries which include developing an ecosystem service index to help better anticipate tipping points, developing conceptual frameworks that inform how to better manage socio-ecological trade offs and deliver ‘just ecosystem management’.
ESPA’s focus is on providing robust evidence, based on the application of rigorous scientific
methods. In Bolivia, for example, an ESPA-funded project is applying a randomized control trial (RCT) approach to measure the effectiveness of a scheme to compensate local people for conserving forests. NGO NaturaBolivia developed the scheme to protect watersheds in the Santa Cruz valleys, and was poised to implement it across a new 1.8 million acre protected area. However, they wanted definitive evidence that the project not only brought large areas of forest under payment contracts, but actually improved forest cover, watersheds and people’s lives.
Collaborating with Harvard economists, NaturaBolivia developed a controlled project evaluation, which compares impacts for two randomised groups of villages – one group receiving conservation payments, the other receiving education about the downstream benefits of healthy forests. This is one of the first studies to measure the impacts of ‘payments for ecosystem services’ in controlled experiments.
Worldwide, payment for environmental services initiatives could grow to billions of dollars each year and provide significant benefits for poor rural communities – but researchers and practitioners must learn how to set up these schemes so that they do benefit the poor. The results of this cost-effectiveness study, due out in 2012, including some of ESPA’s other outputs, will continue to be widely disseminated to relevant development actors over the course of the programme.
IOI TRAINING PROGRAMME ON OCEAN GOVERNANCE: POLICY, LAW AND MANAGEMENT
16th May – 13th July, 2012With the support of Dalhousie University, the International Ocean Institute (IOI) has offered an intensive, interdisciplinary training programme in Canada annually since 1981. It is one of the courses available through the IOI network’s OceanLearn suite of programmes. In keeping with the vision of the late Elisabeth Mann Borgese, founder of the IOI, the purpose of the IOI-Canada course is to:
- deepen understanding of the ever-increasing importance of the oceans and their resources in world politics and sustainable economic development;
- assist developing countries in the formation of a core of decision-makers fully aware of the complex issues of ocean management; and,
- maximise benefits to be derived from the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea through the proper integration of ocean management into national and international development strategies.
The training programme takes place in Halifax on the campus of Dalhousie University, and consists of over 200 hours in the classroom. While it is primarily lecture-based, the course also includes interactive discussions, exercises, field trips, and an international round table.
Forms can be downloaded from the training section of the IOI-Canada website (www.dal.ca/ioihfx) or requested from:
Madeleine Coffen-Smout, Programme Officer, International Ocean Institute
Dalhousie University, 6414 Coburg Road, P.O. Box 15000, Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3H 4R2, Canada
Tel: 1 902 494 6918, fax: 1 902 494 1334, e-mail: email@example.com
Completed forms should be sent by fax, airmail or courier and must be received at the above address no later than the deadline of 1st January 2012. Copies of all available funding application correspondence must accompany the application. Copies of any subsequent funding correspondence should be forwarded as soon as possible.