Victoria Dompka, American Association for the Advancement of Science
"The human species is among myriads of species living on this planet. It is part of nature's biodiversity and it vitally depends on this biodiversity for its life support system. There is, however, one important difference between the human species and the rest of the ecosystem: no other species would convene a symposium to look at the impact that its own species exerts on the rest of the world."
--Wolfgang Lutz, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis
The impact of human population and high rates of natural resource consumption on the environmental has received well deserved, heightened attention over the past several years. Governments and non-governmental organizations (NGO's) have felt an increasing need to better understand and address population and consumption dynamics that affect the ecosystems on which all life depends. This interest is due in large part to the awareness raised by the United Nations International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) held in Cairo in September 1994.
More recently, policy makers, field workers, scientists, and foundations have focused primarily on the need for more quality scientific evidence on the relationship between population and the environment. Many experts agree that the ability to effectively manage the Earth's natural resource based and the currently unsustainable rates of population and resource consumption growth is hampered, if not prevented, by a lack of knowledge about population's environmental impact.
On April 20-21, 1995, an interdisciplinary group of policy and field experts from 14 countries met in Washington, DC to discuss the scientific evidence needed to document one particular aspect of population and the environment, that of biodiversity. The gathering, chaired by Dr. Fred T. Sai focuses on human population's impact on biodiversity and protected areas around the world. This topic was selected because it is one significant area of study under the broad spectrum of population and environmental issues for which little research has been done.
The meeting, entitled "Human Population, Biodiversity and Protected Areas: Science and Policy Issues," was organized by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) International Directorate's Program on Population and Sustainable Development (EHN). Funding was provided by AAAS in-kind monies and generous support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Turner Foundation.
The main purposes of the meeting was to identify policy-driven scientific research priorities at international, national, and local levels on the subject of human population's impact on areas of high or unique biodiversity. It was designed to help contribute to the scientific grounding of the population and biodiversity relationship and to establish a better understanding and means of addressing the issues' linkages through policy and field-relevant science.
For purposes of the meeting, the term biodiversity was defined as the planet's genetic, species, and ecosystem diversity. Protected areas included scientific and nature reserves, national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, protected landscapes, wilderness areas, biosphere reserves, and conservation sites. To help direct the discussion, concentration was on the biodiversity found in protected areas from six countries worldwide, including India, Indonesia, Kenya, Ecuador, Colombia, and the United States. The focus of the meeting was on protected areas, in part because of their relevance to the topic and in part to better define the parameters of the discussion.
The meeting was also held to implement and provide concrete follow-up to the ICPD environment and sustainable development aspects. Particular reference was made to the IDPD's Programme of Action, Chapter 3, Section C.3.31, which states that "research should be undertaken on the linkages among population, consumption and production, the environment and natural resources...to achieve sustainable management of natural resources."
This book is a compilation of the overview papers, case studies, discussants' comments, and recommended policy-oriented scientific research priorities that were developed and presented at the meeting.
Although little in-depth research has been done on the topic, leading world experts have referred to the issue of population and biodiversity loss. For example:
While references like those quoted here are extremely important in creating awareness about the population and biodiversity linkages, they need to be substantiated. The April 1995 AAAS expert's meeting was organized to respond to that need. During the two-day meeting, the group focused on establishing the following:
Particular attention was given to research recommendations that are most useful to policy makers and field-based resource managers.
The expert's meeting represented one of the first times that an interdisciplinary group of social and natural scientists, policy makers, and field practitioners from around the world met to explicitly address the seemingly disparate issues of population and biodiversity. Just under half of the total of approximately 30 participants who attended the meeting gave presentations in their areas of expertise. Presentations given at the meeting were based on the speakers' papers, which form the chapters of this book. The presenters were leading experts in the fields of both population and biodiversity at international, national, and local levels.
Among the presenters were representatives of the UNFPA, the World Bank, the World Conservation Union (IUCN), the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), World Wild Fund For Nature (WWF), and the National Audubon Society. Others were from small, village-based, non-governmental organizations; national institutes of public administration; scientific institutions, and leading universities. The non-presenting participants also included foundation, population and environmental NGO's and governmental representatives.
During the course of the meeting, specialists in population and biodiversity presented overview papers. Resource managers and filed practitioners from the six countries presented case studies of how population pressures affect the biological resources found in their local protected areas. After one day of presentations and a half-day of working group discussions, the meeting participants joined together to develop a set of recommended research priorities. A summary of their recommendations follows in Chapter 2 of this book.
The overview papers contained herein present basic concepts of biodiversity, protected areas, and population, both as individual topics and as they related to each other. IUCN's Jeffrey McNeely and Galye Ness discuss biodiversity and the concept of protected areas around the world, and they provide a review of the current knowledge of human population rates of growth and other population dynamics. They identify issues that are central to understanding how people and protected areas affect biodiversity, and they make suggestions for a research agenda.
Maria Cruz, from the World Bank, says there is a critical need to conduct a more complete inventory of the planet's biodiversity and find a way to measure human disturbances to the resource. She stresses the need to identify the minimum number of people that an area can absorb given its biodiversity protection including defining "allowable" human uses of the biodiversity resources and designing programs to address local needs.
UNFPA's Catherine Pierce stresses the importance of follow-up to the IDCP Programme of Action and how the AAAS meeting fits into that agenda. She says that in a climate where there are restricted funds for development assistance, institutions such as the UN must be kept informed when an intervention works in the field and if it is transferable, so they can put it to use throughout the UN system. She stresses the importance of rapid assessment of the problems in the field so that in time of resource scarcity, some concentrated, carefully targeted action can be taken in areas where otherwise far less may be undertaken.
In his presentation at the meeting, the Smithsonian Institute's Thomas Lovejoy pointed out the need to couple biodiversity and population research involving the private sector, and the need for using existing scientific frameworks that have been successful in the filed of biodiversity as potential models for future work in this area. Dr. Lovejoy's presentation is not based on a paper, so his remarks do not appear in this book.
The case studies provide an important micro-perspective of the issues that are central to many of the world's regions. They also illustrate the importance of site-specific attention. For example:
The activities described in the case studies as being threats to biodiversity conservation in the protected sites, may not immediately present themselves as being population-related. They take on increased importance, however, when they occur with increased frequency and intensity due to the rapidly rising numbers of people undertaking them in or near the parks, or from fast-growing "foreign" demand for the parks' natural resources.
In their papers, discussants Wolfgang Lutz from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) and Patricia Waak from the National Audubon Society drew a number of conclusions regarding the similarities and differences among the six case studies. Lutz makes a comparison of the six countries. He observes that the most important population-related problems that affect all the protected areas are both short and long term migration. Among his observations are that public awareness about conservation and the governance necessary to protect ecosystems, lag far behind the technologies for ecosystem destruction. He states that educating broad segments of the population is the single most important development priority with respect to population and biodiversity.
Waak believes that the case studies help illustrate the need for interdisciplinary approaches to environmental conservation and resource management, which include the use of demographers and social scientists. She states that since the case studies show that the problems are site-specific, they require local solutions that could be made applicable more broadly. Waak advocates an anticipatory approach to population and biodiversity problems that may occur over the long term.
While many research agendas exist in the two separate fields of population and biodiversity, few if any, are available on the linkages between population and biodiversity. The research priorities contained in this book examine population, biodiversity, and protected areas as one interrelated topic.
Chapter 2 should be read in tandem with the suggestions contained separately in each of the 11 papers presented herein. Together the recommendations found in both sources - those in Chapter 2, which were made by the group during the meeting and those found in the individual papers - form and important compilation to be considered as a whole.
Those recommendations reflect insights from some of the world's most experienced and knowledgeable professionals in the fields of population and biodiversity, from international to village levels. Their collective suggestions provide valuable guidance to those interested in addressing this issue. Follow-up to the recommendations contained in this book should come in the form of research undertaken at the local level. The research results should be passed on to other field workers as well as the policy makers at the national and international levels so they can integrate this knowledge into their work on population, biodiversity, and protected areas.
The experts' group began developing the recommendations with three basic assumptions:
The experts' group'[s recommendations fell under the following three principal guidelines:
AAAS-commissioned reviews of the relevant scientific literature and advisory groups have identified subjects under the rubric of population and the environment that are critical to environental sustainability, yet most lacking in scientific research. These subjects include population in relation to biodiversity, protected area, water, marine life and fisheries, coastal areas, land use, climate change, and mountainous regions. These topics form the focus for AAAS/ehn activities.
Protecting Nature: Regional Reviews of Protected Areas, J.MA. McNeeley, J. Harrison, P. Dingwell, IV World Congress on National Parks and Protected Areas. (Caracas, Venezuela: IUCN, 1994.)
Global Biodiversity Strategy: Guidelines for Action to Save, Study and Use Earth's Biotic Wealth Sustainably and Equitabley, World Resources Institute (WRI), World Conservation Union (IUCN), United Nations Enviornmental Programme (UNEP). (Gland, Switzerland: WRI, IUCN, UNEP, 1992.)
Biodiversity, ed E.O. Wilson, Associate Editor, Frances M. Peter. (Washington, DC: National Press, 1988.)
American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS). Keynote address by Thomas Lovejoy. (Washington, DC, August 1994.)
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