EXAMPLES OF SUSTAINABILITY
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How to Grow a Wildland:
The Gardenification of Nature
The Bottom-Up View.
The first fund-raising flyer, produced in a kitchen and nurtured by The Nature Conservancy and two academics, was titled How to Grow a National Park. Its cover depicted a cowpat with a newly germinated guanacaste tree seedling in the middle. In 1985, fund-raising efforts for tropical conservation centered on the argument that we must buy forest urgently because once it is cut down, it is gone forever. We argued the opposite for tropical dry forest, which once had covered at least half of the forested tropics. Human settlement had eliminated it so thoroughly that the only option was restoration through buying trashed remnants somewhere and restoring a portion that would be large enough to conserve an entire ecosystem. That “somewhere” focused on the 10,000-hectare Santa Rosa National Park in northwestern Costa Rica because we were familiar with it and its biology. The idea survived and grew because the Costa Rican community believed in it and worked for it and because the international community was willing to invest cash and labor to preserve the existence of important tropical nature.
In 1989, the idea became the Area de Conservacion Guanacaste (ACG) (http://www.acguanacaste.ac.cr). The operational word was “restore.” The question was how to severely diminish four centuries of footprints of modern society and let the forest take back its land. We called the process restoration biology and biocultural restoration, but it was also secondary succession, regeneration, regrowth, reforestation, aforestation, farming, ranching, mitigation, recuperation, recovery, rehabilitation, and sustainability.
How could We Restore this Particular Tropical Dry Forest?
• Stop the anthropogenic fires.
• Restore the size.
• Integrate its socioeconomics with those of neighboring areas on all levels.
• Stop the ranching, farming, logging, and hunting.
• Pay the bills.
Stop the Anthropogenic Fires
Because this particular tropical dry forest does not have natural fires, we did not have the dilemma of deciding when to let it burn. The lands of the ACG have survived four centuries of clearing of forest and brush by repeated annual to semiannual anthropogenic fires during the 6-month dry season. In 1985, the 120,000 hectares of the ACG contained at least 50,000 hectares of highly inflammable old pastures and brushy fields. Every time a fire passed through it, more woody vegetation was eliminated. However, the general area had not been sufficiently successful to be a thoroughly cleared agroscape. Without fire, the remnants of forest within the open areas would be able to expand to restore the forest. Every farmer and rancher knew this, although biologists and conservationists were more skeptical.
Stopping the fires was not a technical issue or a biological question. The methods were straightforward: apply trucks, tractors, pumps, lots of brooms, radios and walkie-talkies, burned firebreaks, and fire lookouts. Rather, stopping the fires was a question of personnel management and motivation. It was a question of being there at 2 a.m. on Easter Sunday when your family and friends are at the beach; of working all night; of maintaining a lookout for 6 months, 24 hours a day. It was a question of working with the neighbors and of having them be the fire crew.
Elimination of the fire footprint was achieved by selecting about a dozen locally hired staff, giving them full responsibility, backing their budgetary needs, and giving them the opportunity to invent any schedule or administrationincluding going off site to combat fires on private neighboring land, strongly supporting a regionwide educational program about the value of eliminating fire, and calling on the regional police force and other volunteers when a particular fire got out of hand.
The ACG Fire Program and the ACG administration as a whole succeeded. Today, the brushy pastures and interdigitated remnants of dry forest in the ACG are virtually firefree and display at least 40,000 hectares of rapidly regenerating young forest. The seeds arrive by means of water, wind, birds, bats, rodents, ungulates, and carnivores.
Restore the Size
How big an area would be big enough? Parque Nacional Santa Rosa, part of one of Costa Rica's first ranches, was a 10,600-hectare island in the ghost of the dry forests that once extended from near Mazatlán, Mexico, to southern South America, with some rain forest intermingled here and there. What was that dry
forest is now much of the neotropical agroscape and is clearly unrecoverable. All surviving neotropical dry forests are islands in that agroscape.
Santa Rosa was far too small for the survival of its ecological processes and dryforest ecosystemit contained only pieces of drainage basins, small portions of major habitats, and part of the contour, and it was virtually all edge. Also, it was far too small to absorb the many kinds of human footprints that would result from its becoming a local, national, and international garden. In particular, it needed to expand to the wetter east. Much of its more mobile biodiversity (insects and birds) migrates seasonally to the rain forests and cloud forests on and across the mountains to the east and return in the rainy season.
The ACG expanded until the dry forest was big enough. The border was not set by biological requirements, but by the reality of social resistance; it stopped where the very profitable portions of the agroscape began. This expansion incorporated other semiconserved islands of wildland (Sector Murcielago, Reserva Forestal Orosi, Parque Nacional Rincon de la Vieja, and Refugio de Vida Silvestre Isla Bolaños), and all the private lands in betweensome 70 of them, ranging from small farms to large rancheswere purchased from squatters, absentee landlords, and land speculators.
On the one hand, this large-scale purchase of land was facilitated greatly by a rapid demise of the region's cattle industry, by the overall low quality of the regional agroscape, by Central American military turmoil, and by the socioeconomic reality that virtually all owners were willing to convert their land into more-profitable ventures elsewhere. Another major contribution was the moderate number of owners who believed that it was highly respectable to have their lands become national park, thus tolerating the minimal prices that the conservation community pays for existence value.
On the other hand, buying these private properties and displacing the employees intertwined the ACG inextricably with its neighbors. Houses on the ranches and farms became part of ACG's infrastructure, as did the dwellings of the former employees when they or their neighbors were hired as new ACG staff. The children of these former ranchers, farmers, and employees were among the pupils in the ACG Biological Education Program. ACG staff bought supplies in the local stores. The local decision-makers became members of the ACG's board of directors (Comite Local), a responsibility shared with the Ministry of the Environment and Energy (MINAE) and the staff of the ACG itself. From the start, the process of building the ACG was intrinsically an act of presence, quite different from an act of gazetting a large pristine wildland as a national park.
As the area of the ACG increased, so did the opportunities for its presence and socioeconomic integration. When a vandal sets a fire that burns 2,000 hectares of centuries-old African grass pasture, it is only a thin scar on the ACG landscape now, not the end of a project. If a deer is poached, it often can be shrugged off. When a soccer field or a picnic ground is needed, the land is there; after the schoolchildren in a biology course trample one 10-hectare section, they can trample another section while the first section recuperates. If 20 hectares of pasture is needed for the ACG's work horses, it is there. Does one need to become a biodegrader for 1,000 truckloads of orange peels a year? Build a new road for
management? Put up a wind farm? Host an ecotourism program? Provide seeds for a mahogany-seed farm? Grow a carbon crop? Build a directory on the Internet for 235,000 species? Somewhere in these 120,000 hectares, such footprints may well be absorbable; in only 10,600 hectares, they rarely could be.
Today, the expansion of the ACG into the eastern rain forests and cloud forests has become part of the conservation solution to the effect of the drying and heating that the western dry forests of the ACG are suffering through global warming, an outcome that was unforeseen before 1992. During the 22 years of weather recorded in the ACG, 1997 was the driest and hottest year, and the trend continues. The rain forests and cooler cloud forests to the east have been a lifeboat for the dry forest on more than one level.
Integrate its Socioeconomics with Those of Neighboring Areas on All Levels
The ACG is a 135,000-hectare terrestrial and marine garden that has 120 owner-employees, a US$1.6 million annual operating budget, and 3.3 million stockholders. It operates within the bylaws of incorporation of the state and, more specifically, within those of MINAE. The macroproduce of the ACG is the conservation of the biodiversity of its wildland and ecosystems into perpetuity. The process used to realize this goal is to be a major player in the national and local biodiversity industry, intertwined with the ecosystem industry: biodiversity development, ecosystem development, environmental-services development. All uses leave footprints, but this process calls for the unending quest for uses that are nondamaging. The ACG has come to peace with the reality that 5% of its biodiversity and ecosystems will be sacrificed to guarantee the existence of the remainder. This is the ACG wildland peace treaty that is being negotiated with the agroscape and the urban landscape.
Such a socioeconomic integration at the local, national, and international levels is sought through diverse activities. A few examples follow.
As the regional cattle industry has died over the last decade, the ACG's biodiversity and ecosystem industries have become part of the economic restoration in the region not only through cash flow, but also through offering relatively ceilingfree and diverse job opportunities that are far more in tune with modern society than were herding livestock and subsistence farming. The small neighboring town of Quebrada Grande is changing rapidly from a shopping center for cowboys to a suburb for the ACG that provides more urban activities. All ACG employees are Costa Rican, and 82% are from the immediate region; 42% are women. All are computerizing, all are networking, and all are exploring this new world of professional responsibility toward a goaland the pain and opportunities these forces bring.
Since 1987, the ACG Biological Education Program has taught basic biology in the ACG's wildland habitatsexpanding the responsibility beyond biocultural restoration into bioliteracyto all 4th-, 5th-, and 6th-grade students, and now high-school students, in the vicinity of the ACG. Today, this means 42 schools and more than 2,000 students per year, 22% of the ACG's annual operating bud-
get. It is widely rumored that the ACG has had an easy job because it is imbedded in a “tame populace,” but this tameness was created deliberately.
As a result of the restoration of the original forest vegetation throughout the ACG, the watersheds are being restored for 11 major rivers that service all local towns and the irrigation systems for major agroscapes. This ACG water factory is becoming particularly crucial as global warming continues to heat up and dry out the region and as regional agriculture moves toward environmental control.
Also through restoration of the original forest vegetation throughout the ACG, atmospheric carbon is being farmed (see Costa Rica's P.A.P. in http//www.ji.org and http://www.unfccc.de). The ACG and its biodiversity and ecosystem industries thus become both the “green scrubber” and the insurance policy that the carbon will stay sequestered.
The ACG has been a major stimulus, supporter, training ground, and proving ground for many of the field activities of INBio (Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad), the institution that has accepted major responsibility in the Costa Rican national biodiversity inventory, teaching of bioliteracy, and computerization of biodiversity management (http://www.inbio.ac.cr). Locally hired and trained parataxonomists and parabiodiversity prospectors working for ACG and INBio share the ACG facilities. These paraprofessionals are part of the intellectual and operational critical mass that carries forward the ACG's Research Program. The international taxonomic cleanup that swirls around INBio's national biodiversity inventory, in great part being carried forward by the nation's parataxonomists, is key to readying the taxonomic platform on which the ACG's biodiversity industry is based. At least 60% of Costa Rica's species occur within ACG's area, which comprises only 2% of the country. A directory of biodiversity on the ACG Web site is anticipated as the debut of this taxonomic platform.
The ACG grew out of Costa Rica's second-oldest national park and second-oldest hacienda. It has been a major stimulus and supporter for the rapidly evolving Sistema Nacional de Areas de Conservacion (SINAC) of MINAE, which is the administrative and technical integration of all of Costa Rica's conserved wildlands into 11 consolidated conservation areas. SINAC's wildlands constitute about 25% of the country and combine many traditional management categories into one: to save it without destroying it. Ecotourism is Costa Rica's largest crop. The ecotouristwhether a school child from Peoria or a researcheris a better kind of cow, and the conservation areas are the pastures. SINAC was founded to forge a peaceful coexistence between the wildland garden and the agroscape and urban landscape. Nothing invites encroachment of neighbors more quickly than the impression of abandonment or disuse. Wildland biodiversity must have a national presence, a national farm.
The ACG is developing itself as a research-friendly platform for all ilkslocal, national, and international. It is the place to find out a vast array of information. For example, how many times does a spider monkey scratch its left armpit (in the morning)? What species of plants do the caterpillars of rain-forest skipper butterflies eat? Can we clarify the species and genera of hundreds of species of water mites? What flowers do bats stick their heads into? Will a pharmaceutical company find its “gold” in a bottle of frozen baby ticks? How many eggs of
the Ridley's sea turtle survive predation by vultures and coyotes? Where do species of plants live in a montane cloud forest? How can Cladocera be used to reduce the numbers of dengue-bearing mosquitoes? Do the parasitic wasps in the ACG reduce the density of leaf miners in the neighbor's orange orchard? How many children do current ACG staff have, and how many siblings did the parents have? How fast does an unburned pasture return to forest? How hard does the wind blow? Not only does this biodiversity and ecosystem research industry provide a type of high-yield ecotourism, but each of these research projects also carries the distant possibility of royaltiessometimes paid in fuel for the Biological Education Program, sometimes paid in votes by visitors, sometimes paid in cash from the pharmaceutical industry and other commercial users, and sometimes paid in sweat equity by the researchers themselves. Even my description of this pilot project in the survival of complex tropical wildland is yet another product of this farm.
My last example is that of a specific contract for biodiversity and ecosystem services between the ACG and Del Oro, a neighboring orange-juice company. The ACG is being paid for 20 years' worth of biological control agents, water, consulting, orange-peel degradation, and isolation from orange pestsUS$480,000 in the coinage of 1,200 hectares of one of the biologically scarcest habitats in Costa Rica, the lowland transition forests between the Atlantic rain forest and the Pacific dry forest. This mutualism has other ramifications in the form of Del Oro's “green” orange juice that is now certified ECO-OK by Rainforest Alliance and has been made technically feasible through the environmental services provided by the ACG. This juice is penetrating the Costa Rican market, heading for the European market, and reinforcing the contemporary Costa Rican attitude of taking virtually its entire agroscape into sustainable development.
Stop the Ranching, Farming, Logging, and Hunting
The impact of everyday agroscape activities on the ACG was largely eliminated by stopping the fires and purchasing the land. The policies of a conserved wildland then regulate the tilling, weeding, and harvesting of this garden. A conservation-area garden has its public lands, its storage areas, its restricted sections, each with different rules, and each leaving different footprints, but no footprints are free. Early on, the ACG accepted that it would pay some small portionsay, 5%of its biodiversity and ecosystem services to conserve the remaining 95% into perpetuity.
This viewpoint leads to paradoxical management decisions. In the late 1970s, when Santa Rosa was still very much a tiny semiconserved island in a great sea of agroscape, at least 2,000 semiferal cattle were living in its 10,600 hectares. Fires burned across virtually all of it every year, but it was a relatively stable mosaic pasture and remnant forest, as it had been for centuries. In a spate of classic national-park management, the cattle were removed, but no fire-control program was established. The introduced species of African pasture grasses then grew to 2 m high, and they provided fuel for the annual fires that began the steady, thorough process of forest removal.
The lesson was learned. The young ACG left the cattle on the pastures as the land was purchased in the middle 1980s and, at times, even leased browsing rights to as many as 7,000 additional cattle as biotic mowing machines. This kept the grass down as the nascent fire-control program came into its own. These newly firefree pastures filled even more rapidly with woody, shade-producing plants than did those without livestock. Could the cattle be left until full reforestation was accomplished? No, because their use as biotic mowing machines is not free. Their footprint is the trashing of the streams, rivers, and riparian vegetation unless they are fenced out of them at a greater cost than their market value. Ironically, however, a muddy dry-season waterhole with a horse standing in it dates back to the “natural” before the Pleistocene hunters and their carnivorous helpers took our megafauna. Eventually, some sector in the dry forest of the ACG will contain whatever Pleistocene megafauna can be recuperated.
I cannot overemphasize that a successfully conserved wildland is a garden. A topic in the news today is the restoration of forest for carbon farming. Carbon farming is not only forest restoration: Sale of the resulting carbon also can contribute to the operational costs of and provide investment capital for a conserved wildland. Just as tropical “debt-for-nature” swaps did not solve a nation's debt problems, but fueled some major conservation initiatives, carbon farming in conservation areas will not solve our greenhouse-gas problem, but it certainly can contribute to a holistic solution. This, in turn, brings up the many imaginative ways that the sequestered carbon can be harvested and “parked” elsewhere in buildings, furniture, and even underground deposits. Thus, a wildland tree becomes a long-term investment. Carbon harvesting and windthrows begin to merge in the nature of their footprints.
Pay the Bills
One can guard a large box of gold under the bed quite inexpensively, especially if no one else knows that it is thereit requires only some barbed wire, a gun, or a watchdog. The annual operating budget for Parque Nacional Santa Rosa in the middle 1980s was about US$120,000, including salaries, most of which was spent elsewhere, thus generating virtually no income for the region. Today, the ACG is 10 times as large, costs 10 times as much to operate, and generates diverse goods for barter and a large amount of cash for the region. It meets its costs through a combination of payment for services and interest income from its endowment. This endowment was established in the late 1980s through a combination of international donations for the existence value of the ACG and government subsidy as a “debt-for-nature” swap for both its existence value and its sustainable development. The future of the ACG depends heavily on its being able to seek reasonable compensation for the biodiversity and ecosystem services to the public and commercial sectors both independently and in consort with national-level and international-level projects. The new, landmark biodiversity-prospecting agreement between Yellowstone National Park and Diversa Corporation in California (http://www.wfed.org) is most welcome, as have been INBio's biodiversity-prospecting contracts with Merck and with the INBio-Cornell-Bristol-Myers
Being 10 times as large as the original Parque Nacional Santa Rosa should, and does, bring massive economy of scale to the ACG. Why, then, is the annual budget 10 times as large? There are two reasons. First, the ACG is beginning to put its “box of gold” on the stock-and-bond market. This brings administrative costs: An Internet Web site is not free, a firefighter on call at 2 a.m. requires payment, and it costs to encourage a university-educated Costa Rican biologist to spend a lifetime as a 5th-grade teacher in a remote rain-forest town that is just constructing its first gas station. Second, the tropics long have been reputed to be a source of inexpensive local labor. Unfortunately, local is a geographic term that has come, unconsciously, to connote labor that can be compensated for in terms that would be appropriate for a mule. However, when one moves workers from the pastures and bean fields into computer work stations, the national inventory, and the halls of politics, the operating cost for personnel skyrockets. As Costa Rica becomes a sustainably developed country and realizes its human aspirations, its cost per citizen will be similar to that in the rest of the developed world.
Ironically, today we are quite concerned with internalizing environmental costs. The development of the ACG and many other Costa Rican institutions has made us all excruciatingly aware that internalizing the costs of biodiversity development and ecosystem-service development will require budgetary figures that were not anticipated by the societies that stand to gain in both the short and long terms. An enormous amount of labor and institutional subsidy has gone into the current projects of taxonomy, biodiversity prospecting, wildland administration, political decentralization, wildland-ecosystem engineering, and all the other things discussed here and in such international agreements as the Convention on Biodiversity.
The Top-Down View
The exportable generalizations that we academicians and office-holders hold so dear are extracted easily from the details just discussed. In doing all of them, we were unconsciously creating a garden. The traits of the ACG have been and are being driven by the organic traits of the site itself, by the hard-wired genetic tendencies of humans to create more humans and their domesticated genomic extensions, by the specific culture in which the ACG is embedded, and by the global humanity in which that is imbedded.
A generalization of the top-down view is as follows:
• Restoring complex tropical wildlands is primarily a social endeavor; the technical issues are far less challenging.
• Survival of a complex wildland, whatever its origin, in the face of humanity's genes and domesticated genomic extensions, requires a major paradigm shiftwe cannot afford to perceive the conserved area as “wild,” which can be interpreted as “up for grabs.”
• Sustainability of a Wildland will be achieved only by bestowing garden status on it, with all the planning, caring, investing, and harvesting that implies.
• All use is effect, and all gardens are affectedrestoration is “footprint absorption” by the garden, and it occurs on all levels.
• Planning, caring, investing, and harvesting in the wildland garden are achieved through a detailed understanding of biodiversity and its ecosystems and by simultaneous incorporation of a specific garden's social milieu at local, national, and international levels.
• The “achievable” is an ever-shifting and ever-negotiated n-dimensional hyperspace produced by the intrinsic traits of a specific wildland interwoven with the mosaic of social energies and agendas brought to bear on it.
To put it another way, we must use it or lose it; but when we use it, something must then restore it.
The experiences and observations that have led to these reflections have been supported generously for 36 years by the US National Science Foundation, by the international scientific community, and by the government and people of Costa Rica. More specifically, the personnel of the Area de Conservacion Guanacaste (ACG), the Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad (INBio), the Fundacion de Parques Nacionales (FPN), and the Ministerio del Ambiente y Energia (MINAE) have provoked and facilitated these thoughts. I particularly thank the Costa Rican team of Alvaro Umaña, Rodrigo Gámez, Alvaro Ugalde, Mario Boza, Alfio Piva, Pedro Leon, Luis Diego Gomez, Rene Castro, Randall Garcia, Johnny Rosales, Luis Daniel Gonzales, Karla Ceciliano, Jose Maria Figueres, Maria Marta Chavarria, Roger Blanco, Angel Solis, Isidro Chacon, Nelson Zamora, Jorge Corrales, Manuel Zumbado, Eugenia Phillips, Jesus Ugalde, Carlos Mario Rodriguez, Alonso Matamoros, Jorge Jimenez, Alejandro Masis, Ana Sittenfeld, Felipe Chavarria, Julio Quiros, Jorge Baltodano, Luz Maria Romero, and Sigifredo Marin, and all the parataxonomists of INBio, for their especially insightful and inspirational input over the last 12 years of development of these ideas. Although it is clear that the international cast of contributors to a concept of this nature is enormous, I particularly thank Winnie Hallwachs, Kenton Miller; Peter Raven, Tom Eisner, Jerry Meinwald, Ed Wilson, Don Stone, Paul Ehrlich, Hal Mooney, Kris Krishtalka, Jim Edwards, Gordon Orians, Monte Lloyd, Mike Robinson, Steve Young, Preston Scott, Leif Christoffersen, Odd Sandlund, Mats Segnestam, Eha Kern, Bernie Kern, Hiroshi Kidono, Frank Joyce, Ian Gauld, Jon Jensen, Murray Gell-Mann, Steve Viederman, Staffan Ulfstrand, Carlos Herrera, Steve Blackmore, Meridith Lane, Jim Beach, John Pickering, Amy Rossman, Bob Anderson, Terry Erwin, Don Wilson, Diana Freckman, Chris Thompson, Marilyn Roossnick, Luis Rodriguez, Dan Brooks, Charles Michener, Bob Sokal, John Vandermeer, Jack Longino, Rob Colwell, Chris Vaughan, and Tom Lovejoy for their investment in this process.
Measures to Conserve Biodiversity in Sustainable Forestry:
The Río Cóndor Project
Forests occupy about 5,000 million hectares (Constanza and others 1997), the equivalent of one-third of all terrestrial ecosystems, and constitute a substantial fraction of Earth's vegetation. Some 60% of forest is at temperate (in a broad sense) latitudes (Constanza and others 1997), and that is where most forests are managed for timber and other commodities. Temperate forest is unequally distributed among the two hemispheres. Less than 10% occurs in the Southern Hemisphere (Arroyo and others 1996), this being concentrated mainly in the widely disparate areas of southern Chile and neighboring Argentina, New Zealand, and Tasmania.
Forests provide a wide range of ecosystem services and goods. The goods are wood, edible plants and fungi, medicinal plants, microorganisms with potential biological activity, ecotourism, and recreation. The services include maintenance of hydrological cycles and air and water quality, regulation of regional climate, nutrient cycling, soil conservation, carbon storage, provision of habitats for wildlife, and contributions to regional and local aesthetics. In a provocative paper attempting to calculate the monetary replacement value of the ecological services provided by Earth's ecosystems, forests were estimated to contribute 38% of total terrestrial ecosystem worth, the equivalent of $4.7 trillion per year, or $969/ha per year (Constanza and others 1997).
Forests, both temperate and tropical, house large amounts of biodiversity (figure 1). Apart from the more visible elementssuch as birds, reptiles, mammals,
and vascular plantsforests exhibit strong representation of the less conspicuous and often poorly known groups of organisms, such as bacteria, fungi, lichens, bryophytes, mollusks, and terrestrial arthropods. Some 70,000 species of fungi, well represented in forests, are recognized worldwide, but extrapolations suggest that there could be as many as 1,500,000 species (Hawksworth 1991). Some 2,000 species of ectomycorrhizal fungi are associated with Douglas fir alone in the Pacific Northwest (Marcot 1997). A high proportion of the estimated 16,000 bryophytes (Heywood and Watson 1995) also belong to forests. Some 1,200 species of beetles were collected on a single tree in Panama (Erwin 1982), and 492 species of insects, mostly from litter and surface soil layers, were found in coastal forest in Tierra del Fuego (Arroyo and others 1996). An estimated 7,000 species of arthropods (in comparison with 26 species of mammals, including bats) are found in late successional forests in the Pacific Northwest, containing a handful of trees (Marcot 1997). Tropical forests are evidently richer in tree species than their temperate counterparts, as indicated by a record of 473 tree species in a single hectare in Ecuador (Heywood and Watson 1995). However, the 1,200 tree species in temperate forests worldwide are not to be ignored (Heywood and Watson 1995). Temperate rain-forest trees, moreover, can show high diversity in
vascular-plant epiphytes, as seen in the finding of 28 species on a single tree in New Zealand (Heywood and Watson 1995).
This essay addresses ecological sustainability and biodiversity conservation in a managed forest landscape. It refers to concrete actions for conserving biodiversity in a private sustainable forestry initiative, the Río Cóndor project in Tierra del Fuego, southern Chile. Less than 10% of the earth's terrestrial surface is protected, and conservation value in the past was more often influenced by scenic beauty and wilderness value than by biodiversity, such that existing protected areas are now often inadequately distributed for the protection of biodiversity (for example, Arroyo and Cavieres 1997). Long before objective assessments of existing protected areas can be realistically completed, very large areas of the world's remaining forests, especially in developing countries, will already have been submitted to some form of resource extraction as a result of economic pressures and social needs. This situation, added to the high biodiversity value of forests, suggests that it is time for scientists to pay greater attention to managed lands and to establish partnerships with sensitive users of the land, without whose collaboration the task of saving forest biodiversity will be very difficult.
Ecological Sustainability in Managed ForestsAn Evolving Paradigm
Newly recognized goods and ecosystem services of forests, high biodiversity content, and increasing consciousness of global climatic change have led society to question how forests are being used worldwide. In particular, recreation, scenic, and related amenity values have become central to the public's perception of the role and value of native forests in both developed and developing countries. These societal concerns, in turn, have been paralleled by substantial changes in scientific perception of sustainability as applied to managed forests.
Throughout much of this century, the management of forests focused closely on the extraction of a specific ecosystem good, wood, in keeping with the concept of sustained yield, defined as the management of a resource for maximal continued production consistent with the maintenance of a constantly renewable stock. Such strong emphasis on a particular resource of strictly utilitarian interest, while saving trees of commercial interest, has been less kind to other organisms, as shown, for example, by reduction of the diversity of tree species (Jarvinen and others 1977) and the risk of extinction of as many as 700 species of plants and animals because of past forestry practices (Wright 1995) in Finland. Some 1,487 plants and animals in Sweden associated with forest habitats are considered to have reached threatened status as a result of widespread application of forestry practices (Berg and others 1994). Specialist invertebrates in Fennoscandian boreal forests tend to disappear from local clear cuts while forest generalist species and numerous open-habitat species appear (Niemelä 1997). At the genetic level, selective logging increases inbreeding in tropical dipterocarp forests (Murawski and others 1994).
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, as greater knowledge of ecosystem processes and biodiversity function in forests became available, the idea of ecosystem-based
forest management began to take hold (Arroyo and others 1996; Franklin 1995). An ecosystem approach to forest management, which will be referred to here as ecological sustainability (Arroyo and others 1996), calls for a shift away from the traditional focus of sustainable yield to one in which all species and ecosystem processes are given consideration and sustainable yield remains an important goal. The recognition that numerous elements of biodiversity in forests are essential for maintaining productive capacity is central to the concept of ecological sustainability. For example, ectomycorrhizal fungi are responsible for aiding nitrogen uptake and fixation by tree species; many lichens fix atmospheric nitrogen; some bryophytes act as sinks for nitrogen leachate; arthropods aid in nutrient cycling of down wood and are major decomposers, chewers, shredders, predators, and food sources in forest streams and rivers; fungi are important decomposers of woody debris; and birds and mammals can be dispersal agents of fruit and seeds (Marcot 1997). Under an ecosystem approach to forest management, moreover, natural forest variability is recognized in developing silvicultural prescriptions, disturbance regimes are mimicked as far as possible in selecting harvesting and regeneration methods, and maintenance of landscape integrity is sought through establishment of protection forest and other types of buffers and the protection of aquatic ecosystems.
The adoption of ecosystem management also brought home the fact that adjacent ecosystems can be interconnected through such processes as nutrient cycling and biotic links, so that effects in any one ecosystem can have eventual repercussions at higher levels in the biodiversity hierarchy (landscape and regional). For example, plant species are sedentary, but their pollen and seeds are often transported by animals that live for part of their annual cycle in adjacent vegetation types. Thus, reduction in the nectar-feeding birds in a managed forest, besides affecting the bird species, will have effects on plant species in an adjacent ecosystem. Reduction of soil microorganisms can slow natural decay and so affect nutrient cycling, but there will also be secondary effects on water quality and aquatic life downstream. Such linkages and feedbacks between different levels of the biological hierarchy oblige consideration at the species, ecosystem, landscape, and regional levels and mean that landowners must be equally concerned with aquatic and other ecosystems, in addition to those under management.
In the early 1990s, as a result of increasing CO2 in the atmosphere because of the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation, the role of forests in maintenance of global carbon balance came into discussion, further modifying the expectations of ecological sustainability in managed forests. The conversion of forests to agricultural lands through burning releases carbon into the atmosphere; conversely, regenerating forests on managed or abandoned lands withdraw carbon. Although young and middle-aged forests accumulate more carbon than standing old-growth forests, the overall carbon balance in a harvested-forest landscape depends on the fate of wood harvested from old-growth forests (Houghton and others 1996). For example, mass-balance calculations for Pacific Northwest forests show that conversion of five million hectares of old-growth forest to younger plantations in Oregon and Washington in the last 100 years has produced a negative carbon balance because of the burning of slash and wood for fuel and the conversion of
sawdust to paper with a short turnaround time for carbon release back into the atmosphere (Harmon and others 1990). Nevertheless, over broader areas of the Northern Hemisphere, the net effect of forest harvest and regrowth in temperate forests is considered to be zero to slightly positive (Houghton and others 1996). However, as projected from current land-use tendencies, the biomass and carbon stock in the equilibrium landscape that replaces Brazil's Amazonian forest after deforestation can be expected to have decreased by about 35% in relation to 1990 levels (Fearnside 1996). Under those conditions, collaboration in the regeneration and restoration of forests on managed lands in temperate areas and emphasis on wood products that permit carbon fixation for very long periods and conservation per se become important goals of sustainability in a managed-forest landscape.
As a result of rapid changes in the perception of the value of forests and equally rapid evolution of scientific ideas as to how forests should be managed, sustainable forestry has been steered in the direction of integrated resource management, or management that takes into account the multiple values of forests. Some aspects of those changes need to be kept squarely in perspective. Although many new measures are now being introduced into sustainable forestry for the protection of biodiversity and ecosystem processes, it has to be admitted that their effectiveness is largely unknown. The long-term studies required to test such effectiveness, which often must be on a spatial scale beyond the domain in which ecology is normally practiced, have not been undertaken to any great extent. It should be borne in mind that we have gone from an era of being concerned about a few tree species in the forest to one involving hundreds of species with different life-history properties, many different habitat requirements, and a demonstrated diversity of responses to harvesting at the population to regional levels (Arroyo and others 1996; Berg and others 1994; Jarvinen and others 1977; Murawski 1994; Niemelä 1997; Wright 1995). The task is not at all simple. One of the main problems is that describing the effects of forest harvesting on biodiversity has been the main focus until now, with far less emphasis on the more relevant manipulative research designed to find novel solutions to mitigate such effects. The most worthwhile studies clearly will be experiments conducted on managed lands themselves with untouched lands as controls. With those caveats in mind, an objective like biodiversity conservation with forest harvesting should be considered at the level of a working hypothesis. Until we know where the line is to be drawnhow much extraction of a commodity, such as wood, is possible while ecological and economic sustainability is maintained into perpetuitythe course of action must be to refine hypotheses by further observation and experiment, with the recognition that ecological sustainability is a long-range target.
One of the most urgent needs in the scientific domain is to develop predictive models for integrating various spatial scales to ascertain whether forests harvested on an ecosystem basis will recuperate to near their original ecological dynamics and biological content and aesthetic value and thereby be available for alternative usesthe ultimate aim of a dynamic interpretation of ecological sustainability. Knowledge of the limits that guarantee those last three conditions is important for developing countries, where the extraction of natural forest resources, even though undesired by large sectors of society, will often precede other, less
resource-intensive uses, such as ecotourism and recreation (which, in requiring infrastructure and substantial new capital, are not always viable options at any given time). Determining these limits is particularly important in the Southern Hemisphere, where temperate forest is scarcer than in the Northern Hemisphere and thus not only is far more sensitive as a biome to inadequate management, but also, hectare for hectare, is under far greater demand for nonextractive uses. With respect to ecological sustainability, it is thus essential, first, to recognize that there are many scientific uncertainties and, second, to leave other options open, given that social perceptions of forest use will undoubtedly continue to change. A range of management strategiesfrom conservative levels of harvesting to the establishment of conservation safety networks, including permanent reserves, commitment to restoration and regeneration, long-term monitoring, and continued appraisal of results in the context of adaptive managementis essential to accommodate all the various situations. Application of the precautionary principle in combination with a multiple-use strategy has the advantage of allowing a landowner to switch to some alternative land use in the near future, if desired or if scientific findings suggest it to be the most appropriate pathway. The principles outlined here have been borne in mind by the group of Chilean scientists responsible for developing actions to conserve biodiversity in the Río Cóndor project, discussed below.
The Río Condór Sustainable-Forestry Project
The Río Cóndor sustainable-forestry project entails land holdings comprising 273,000 hectares, at 54°S in Tierra del Fuego, Chile, of which 54% is forested (figure 2). It is the first forestry project in Chile in which the principles of modern ecological sustainability have been assumed. It is perhaps one of the more advanced anywhere, in terms of the diversity of strategies implemented to protect biodiversity well before commencement of harvesting and the commitment to long-term monitoring and research to test the effectiveness of such strategies (Arroyo and others 1995; Arroyo and others 1996; Pickett 1996). The Río Cóndor project, owned by the Trillium Corporation, Bellingham, USA, and registered through Forestal Trillium Ltd. in Chile, has committed, through voluntary stewardship principles, to a sustainable project based on production of quality wood and other forestry products of added value, protection of biodiversity and ecosystem processes, recognition of potential forest values, and creation of employment and other social benefits for people in the area. Wood chips, a primary forest product, will not be produced, and exotic tree species will not be planted for commercial purposes.
In the absence of scientific information, measures will be taken to generate data and postpone any action that would lead to environmental degradation until such data are available. A comprehensive monitoring programembracing regeneration levels, soil conditions, water quality, rare and endangered species, indicator exotic species, and guanaco and beaver populationswill be carried out by specialists hired specifically for that purpose. In accordance with a commitment to incorporate scientific knowledge and ensure environmental compliance, the Río Cóndor project established an independent scientific commission (ISC) of
botanists, zoologists, and forest ecologist through contact with the Chilean Academy of Sciences and retains a land steward (Arroyo and others 1996). The ISC functioned under a protocol signed by David Syre, owner of the Río Cóndor holdings, which guaranteed its rights and independence. The ISC effected extensive baseline studies and participated actively in designing the conservation strategy and monitoring program. Species and generic richness in several groups of organisms for the entire Río Cóndor property is shown in figure 1.
The Río Cóndor Forests and Landscape
Forests on the Río Cóndor property belong to the circumantarctic biome and include deciduous types (pure Nothofagus pumilio, pure N. antarctica, and N. pumilio-N. antarctica), a mixed evergreen-deciduous type (N. betuloides-N. pumilio), a pure evergreen type (pure N. betuloides N. pumilio), and a mixed evergreen type (N. betuloides-Drimys winteri-Maytenus magellanica). Although Nothofagus as a genus dates back to pre-Cretaceous times, recent molecular work (Manos 1997)
shows that the three subantarctic species in Tierra del Fuego evolved recently. The Río Cóndor forests were consolidated since 5,000 years ago as climate became wetter in the Holocene and allowed replacement of drier steppe vegetation with forests (Heusser 1993). According to criteria given by Spies (1997), most of the inland forests on the Río Cóndor property would be classified as old-growth. However, coastal forests have been heavily affected in the past by selective logging, burning, and grazing; cattle grazing is still practiced in many inland valleys today. Many watersheds in the Río Cóndor forests have been heavily affected by the American beaver, Castor canadensis, liberated in Tierra del Fuego in 1946.
The forests, dominated primarily by one or two tree species, often lack a shrub stratum; biodiversity is moderate; and there is a conspicuous absence of sensitive groups, such as amphibians, salamanders, and very large mammals that are wholly dependent on the forest habitat. The Río Cóndor forests are thus appropriate for putting the principles of ecological sustainability into practice with a broad and precautionary management strategy and with an acceptable risk at baseline conditions. The relative simplicity of the forests, moreover, makes future monitoring realistic for landowners with respect to cost and effort. There are other positive aspects for organizing a sustainable landscape. Forests are interspersed with substantial extensions of subantarctic peat bogs, alpine, and lakes; the landscape is diverse and scenically beautiful. Those last elements have been used to maximal advantage, as will be seen below.
Building a conservation network to protect biodiversity. In accordance with ecological baseline studies carried out by 17 research teams, facilitative reserves in harvested forest, core reserves, and an extensive buffer system have been established on the Río Cóndor property (Arroyo and others 1995, 1996).
Measures to maintain biodiversity in situ in productive areas. One of the most challenging tasks in sustainable forestry is designing a set of measures to maintain viable populations of organisms in the productive forest matrix itself. No matter how simple the forest and how benign the harvesting method, organisms will be affected during silvicultural intervention, either temporarily because of physical elimination of populations or for very long periods because of elimination of specialized habitats in old trees that characterize old-growth forest or changes in microclimate.
To maintain ecosystem productivity, measures to conserve microorganisms, fungi, lichens, and soil arthropods involved in decomposition are particularly important. That objective has been sought in the Río Cóndor project by modifying the traditional shelterwood harvesting method used in Nothofagus forests in Chile. In harvested stands, aggregates (Franklin and others 1997) (facilitative reservessee Arroyo and others 1996 for this concept) of mature trees will be retained permanently throughout the rotation cycle in addition to the 30–50% tree cover retained initially. Such aggregates, which maintain the original soil conditions and a more natural microclimate, are expected to be important for conserving of epiphytic lichens and mosses, such birds as the magellanic woodpecker that depends on old trees, and microorganisms that depend on woody debris in an advanced
stage of decomposition. Many shade-loving herbaceous vascular plants, lichens, and mosses and the five small mammal species in the forest habitat are expected to survive temporarily in these aggregates and then be dispersed back into forest after harvesting. Extensive studies in the Río Cóndor forests have revealed that a high proportion of vascular plant species are abiotically dispersed and genetically self-compatible and thus are well adapted for rapid recolonization of the harvested forest matrix, as are the 68 species of mosses and over 200 species of lichens that disperse via spores or asexual propagules. Comparisons of virgin, 1-year harvested, and 8-year harvested forest showed that, although abundance differences arose, many native species either survived in or were able to return to the shelterwood matrix even without the aid of aggregates. Aggregates will be distributed across the entire harvested-forest landscape and are expected to greatly ease connectivity between harvested forest and other components of the conservation network, such as stream buffers and core reserves. That last point is very important in the Río Cóndor landscape, where spatial differentiation of habitats and species turnover along elevational gradients is low, differentiation of a true riparian zone is lacking, and species richness can be higher in the more open and warmer ecotonal habitats than in forest. Bearing in mind that core reserves established in forestry projects will never be large enough to account for the minimal viable population size of all organisms, the inclusion of aggregates in the harvested matrix should extend the effective safety net of reserves. Dispersing facilitative reserves across the productive landscape, of course, places limitations on their size and on the types of organisms that they will protect. Where the tradeoff lies between number (determining coverage) and size (determining structure and microclimate) is a matter for further research.
Woody debris and residual wood from harvesting will be left on the forest floor after harvesting, and the litter layer will be disturbed as little as possible. Debris and residual wood are important not only for their nutrient content, but also as habitat for small mammals, the endangered red fox, and several species of habitat-sensitive ground birds. These components also provide anchorage for incoming seeds and spores and the shaded conditions preferred by native herbaceous species. Opening of the Tierra del Fuego forests through harvesting was seen to be accompanied by an increase in exotic plants, including such aggressive species as Taraxacum officinale; dealing with exotic plants will probably constitute one of the more difficult problems. Hundreds of species of arthropods were found in the litter layer in the Río Cóndor forests. The success of these measures for conserving biodiversity in productive areas in the Río Cóndor landscape should be enhanced by the rotation cycle of around 90–110 years, the fact that there are no intermediate successional trees in these simple forests, and the shelterwood harvesting method itself, which is far more benign than clear-cutting. The fairly long rotation cycle in relation to maximal tree age in mature stands on good sites (about 150–250 years), made possible on the Río Cóndor property because it is very large, is expected to facilitate the return to near old-growth conditions and enable repeated dispersal events back into harvested forest. The use of the shelterwood harvesting method to retain 30–50% of tree cover until regeneration is fully established will further ease connectivity between individual aggregates.
Establishment of a system of permanent core reserves. Core reserves are a central part of the conservation strategy in the Río Cóndor project. These will perform multiple functions, including preservation of a representative sample of the main vegetation types on a regional scale; protection of specialist, rare, and endangered species; conservation of forest genetic material; protection of cultural values; provision of a resource for ecotourism and future research; and contribution to the aesthetic value of the Río Cóndor holdings. Core reserves will also act as facilitative reserves to replenish altered plant and animal populations in harvested forest in their own right, but this is expected to be more at the level of larger and more mobile organisms, such as mammals and birds, and a few bird-dispersed plant species.
Some 68,000 hectaresaround 25% of the present holdingshas been assigned to preservation by the owners of the Río Cóndor property. The preserved land comprises four blocks (figure 2) that vary from an estimated 43,000-2,200 hectares. Reserves were selected through a process involving the participation of the ISC, an archaeologist, the present land steward of the Río Cóndor project, and Forestal Trillium Ltd. personnel (Arroyo and others 1996), after issue of a public statement on September 13, 1995, by the owners of the Río Cóndor property to create them. The reserves, established through a coarse-filter mode, include all five forest types on the Río Cóndor property and other nonforested vegetation types (matorral, subantarctic peat bogs, and high alpine) and span the east-west precipitation gradient across the Río Cóndor property. Together, the preserved areas contain 10,000 hectares of prime commercial-grade forest, and 17,000 hectares of unharvestable forest on steep slopes and of tree species not appropriate for harvesting. In establishing the Río Cóndor reserves, special attention was given to areas of high archaeological sensitivity along coastal areas and in the vicinity of the major lakes, in view of the 77 archaeological sites of Selk'nam affinity registered during baseline work. Additional considerations were continuity with other protected areas in the general region, such as Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, boarding on the Lago Blanco-Kami Reserve; enhancement of areas of high aesthetic value, such as Fjord Almirantazgo (Canal Whiteside reserve); representation of altitudinal gradients; inclusion of parts of Atlantic- and Pacific-drained rivers (Lago Escondido reserve); and inclusion of watersheds ideal for long-term research on nutrient cycling (Lago Blanco-Kami reserve).
The reserves are expected to play an important role in protecting species in the face of regional conservation problems on the Río Cóndor property, such as Pseudalopex culpaeus (red fox, the largest mammal on the Río Cóndor property restricted to forest), Maytenus disticha and M. magellanica (two plant species with conservation problems), Campephilus magellanicus (magellanic woodpecker), several ground birds that require dark forest conditions, and a small number of vascular plants and small mammals endemic to Tierra del Fuego. The inclusion of important lakes, such as Lago Escondido, and part of Lago Blanco in the reserves places them well for the recreational activities and ecotourism contemplated in the Río Cóndor project.
Although 17% of 3.4 million hectares of Nothofagus pumilio forest in Chile is found in the National Protected Area System (CONAF 1997), the private Río
Cóndor reserves constitute the only preserved areas of this forest type in the far southern extreme of its distribution in Chile. Río Cóndor reserves also capture one of the richest alpine areas in Tierra del Fuego (Arroyo and others 1996) and a wide range of subantarctic peat bogs with a rich flora including rare and marginally distributed species. In equaling in size Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego in adjacent Argentina, the Río Cóndor reserves constitute an important contribution to regional conservation in southern South America and the largest private conservation effort in a managed landscape in Chile. Apart from their in situ sustainability benefits, establishment of the Río Cóndor reserves constitutes a good example of collaboration by private landowners to complement inadequate spatial coverage of protected areas in a state-protected area system.
Ecological buffers. In addition to more conventional buffers (10-m strips around peat bogs, 50-m strips along the Río Cóndor and other streams, a 100-m coastal buffer, and restriction of harvesting on most slopes of over 45% and above 450 m in elevation), all Nothofagus antarctica forest and 60,000 hectares of subantarctic peat bogs on the Río Cóndor property have been considered in a buffer mode. N. antarctica forest is a natural buffer because of its occurrence in a wide range of ecologically marginal and ecotonal conditions, such as between the 450- to 700-m-elevation tree limit and forests of commercial interest; at the edges of peat bogs, streams, and lakes; and between N. pumilio forest and wet steppe. Sharing many species found in harvestible forests and being scattered widely throughout the Río Cóndor landscape, preserved N. antarctica forest will greatly increase coverage of the facilitative matrix. Such habitat similarity highlights a trend in the Tierra del Fuego forests for wide habitat tolerances. Indeed, many forest-dwelling species can also be found in wet steppe, in the alpine, and in disturbed secondary habitats, which, by agreement, will not be disturbed to any extent and thus will also play a facilitative role. Such low habitat specificity reflects a distinctive colonizing character in the postglacial biota of Tierra del Fuego. This feature is very favorable for the conservation of biodiversity in a managed-forest landscape in that other nonexploited vegetation types will contribute directly to the sustainability of the targeted forests.
The mostly Sphagnum-dominated, rain-fed peat bogs on the Río Cóndor property cover 22% of the landscape and are found in a wide variety of physiographic situations, from valley bottoms to slopes of over 30%. They contain some 107 vascular plant species, including rare species like Tapeinia obscura (Iridaceae); a high cover of fleshy fruited, bird-consumed species; many nitrogen-fixing lichens; 10 species of birds; and nesting sites for native geesebut no native mammals. The rationale for keeping peat bogs out of the productive universe is compelling. They play a key role in hydrology and nutrient cycling by providing continuous water supply to the forests in a landscape that has very few free-flowing streams. Peat bogs are recognized carbon sinks, containing (in the boreal forest zone) 108 times as much carbon per hectare as a forest (Gorham 1991). The subantarctic peat bogs of Tierra del Fuego have accumulated carbon over the same general period as their Northern Hemisphere counterparts and to similar depths (Heusser 1993) and thus can be assumed, in the absence of more detailed information, to
be important carbon sinks. Because of the magnitude of stored carbon in peat bogs, their potential for contributing to global warming through CO2 release by draining and harvesting is huge. It is probably not an exaggeration to state that the Río Cóndor property is centered on one of the largest carbon sinks in the Southern Hemisphere! The ISC submitted that the owners of the Río Cóndor property should seriously consider the possibility of placing these important subantarctic wetlands under RAMSAR in consideration of their regional hydrological significance and their role in maintaining global carbon balance.
In the Río Cóndor project, the scientific goal has been to combine protection with production in such a way as to ensure multiple sustainability benefits for a managed forested landscape at the stand, property, and regional levels and thus open the door to an integrated forestry project without foreclosing future options. The success of the series of actions that have been set into motion with the decided collaboration of the landowners at this remote location in the far southern temperate forests of South America depends heavily on maintaining the objectives of monitoring and future research. Such studies will have practical significance only if the knowledge generated is used to alter and implement management practices over time (Franklin 1995).
Original baseline research was financed by Forestal Trillium Ltd., Chile, to which gratitude is expressed. The willingness of David Syre, President, Trillium Corporation, USA, to engage in ecologically sustainable forestry and forest preservation is acknowledged. This manuscript was written during the tenure of an Endowed Chilean Presidential Science Chair.
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The New Natural History
The smallest thing in nature is an entire world
Hardly anyone admits to being a naturalist any more. Natural history used to be the most respectable of professions, before fragmentation of the biological sciences created the multiplicity of subdisciplines that draw the allegiance of biologists today. Natural history, simply put, is the exploration of nature. It is the search for novelty in the biotic worldbe it new species, new behaviors, new ecological interactions, new functions and structures, new materials, or anything else that remains hidden about organisms. Many contemporary biologists got their start as naturalists and are to this day naturalists at heart. They are driven as grownups to roam through nature to “have a look,” just as they were as youngsters. But as professionals, they tend not to advertise the avocation because the professional establishment tends to belittle its importance. That is profoundly regrettable, for natural history has taken on new significance.
Given the state of our molecular understanding, virtually anything uncovered in nature can now be coupled to chemical knowledge. To discover new natural phenomena in today's world is to discover new chemicals and chemical processes and, by implication, new genetic capacities. Exploring nature is tantamount to “chemical prospecting”, and such prospecting has great potential for reward (Eisner 1989–90, 1994a,b; Eisner and Beiring 1994). It can bring commercial benefit, as it has consistently in the search for medicines (Balick and others 1996; Grifo and Rosenthal 1997; Joyce 1994; Reid and others 1993); but most important, it can increase our appreciation of nature. Viewing nature as a source of
applicable knowledge could have an enormous effect on conservation (Eisner 1989–90, 1994a; Reid and others 1993). It could lead to new goals for natural history and, by refocusing the process of discovery itself, could redefine the role of the naturalist explorer.
Exploration can be immensely enjoyable for the naturalist and can lead to unexpected findings. Moreover, discoveries that seem trivial can turn out to be valuable on reflection and further inquiry. Let me illustrate by example.
Hemisphaerota cyanea is a small blue chrysomelid, or leaf beetle, commonly found on palmetto plants (Sabal spp.) in the southeastern United States. As both larva and adult, it feeds on palmetto fronds. Anyone familiar with the beetle knows that the adult can offer considerable resistance to being picked off its plant. It clings with its feet, and does so with such tenacity that forces of upward of 200 times the beetle's weight might be needed to pull the insect off (figure 1a). The
beetle ordinarily walks with a loose hold; it clamps down only when disturbed and by so doing can effectively counter the proddings of such enemies as ants.
H. cyanea secures its hold by adherence rather than anchorage. The “soles” of its feet bear a dense mat of bristles, whose terminal pads are wetted by oil (figure 1b-e). Collectively, the beetle's six legs have around 60,000 pads. The oil is produced by tiny glands that open at the bases of the bristles. During ordinary locomotion, the beetle treads lightly, touching the ground with only a small fraction of its pads. But when disturbed, it presses its six soles down flat, committing to contact with its entire complement of pads (Eisner 1972). Preliminary analyses showed the oil to consist of a mixture of long-chain unsaturated hydrocarbons.
We were interested in the adherence mechanism because relatively little was known about how insects secure their foothold during locomotion. H. cyanea was not unique in relying on wetted bristles for adherence. Many other insects, possibly including all chrysomelids, have bristle-bearing feet much like those of H. cyanea. But H. cyanea is exceptional in that it has bristles in formidable number, so it can use them for defense, as well as walking.
What turned out to be most interesting about H. cyanea is what we later discovered purely by chance: parasitic bacteria live in its feet and feed on the oil. We first noted them when we examined the oil droplets left in the beetle's wake when it walked on glass. We had some idea of the volatility of the oil and could estimate how long it would take for the droplets to evaporate, but they vanished more quickly than predicted. As the droplets disappeared, we noted the simultaneous appearance of distinct rod-shaped bacterial bodies at their margin (figure 2); they did not appear at the edges of droplets of various other oils that we placed on the glass as controls. We were intrigued by this finding but, lacking the appropriate expertise, failed to follow up by culturing and identifying the bacteria. It would be worth while to isolate these microorganisms. It is not unreasonable to presume that, as oil eaters, they could have an enzymatic trick or two hidden up their tiny sleeves.
Many animalsincluding amphibians, earthworms, and molluskshave a body coating of slime. The investiture protects against small predators, such as ants, which might be physically discouraged by sticky materials. Slugs use their slime to special advantage in that they are able to coagulate it locally at sites where they are attacked. This can be easily demonstrated: if a slug is gently poked with a toothpick, nothing much happens; but if the toothpick is simultaneously wiggled, the slug sets the coagulation mechanism in motion, and a rubbery blob forms around the tip of the probe. In my experience, this works with all slugs.
Needless to say, the coagulation mechanism, which indicates an underlying polymerization, provides effective protection against small mandibulate enemies. Ants and carabid beetles, for instance, are literally muzzled when they bite into a slug. They are thwarted the moment they bear down with their mandibles, and as they back away, their mouthparts are visibly encased in slime (figure 3a-b).
How the coagulation is effected remains a mystery. We have precise data (based on responses to electrical stimulation) indicating that the coagulation is triggered within a fraction of a second and that it is coincident (in at least some slugs) with the localized injection of crystalline material into the slime from specialized integumental cells. And we suspect that polymerization of proteins is involved. But we know essentially nothing about the chemical details.
Slug slime also has interesting physical properties that remain to be worked out. In coagulated form, for instance, slug slime sticks with remarkable tenacity to human skin, including wet skin. Sticky materials abound in nature and could constitute a fertile field for basic and applied research. Intriguing examples include the viscid spray of onychophorans (Alexander 1957), as shown in figure 3c-d; the gluey investiture of dalcerid caterpillars (Epstein and others 1994), in figure 3e; the slimy coating of some sawfly larvae (Eisner 1994c), figure 3f; and the sticky caudal secretion of sowbugs (Deslippe and others 1995–96) and some cockroaches (Plattner and others 1972).
Secrets of an Endangered Species.
Dicerandra frutescens (figure 4a) is a mint plant (family Lamiaceae) endemic to central Florida (Deyrup and Menges 1997). It is an inhabitant of the so-called Florida scrub, a highly interesting dry-land ecosystem characterized by sandy ridges, shrubby plants, a number of endemic vertebrates, and a wealth of insects (Deyrup and Eisner 1993). D. frutescens has a distinct, potent aromaso potent that the plant, a small multibranched herb, can sometimes be spotted by its odor from meters downwind. Close examination of the plant revealed that it was virtually free of insect injury. Suspecting that the plant's odor repelled insects, we proceeded to locate its source, which turned out to be a terpenoid oil in tiny, hermetically sealed capsules on the leaves (figure 4c-e). The capsules, we thought, might function as chemical grenades. Insects would inevitably rupture them when biting into a leaf, causing the oil to spill out and become a deterrent.
A simple experiment showed that the grenades work. Ants attracted to a sugar source could be dispelled promptly if a D. frutescens leaf was suddenly brought into their vicinity (figure 4b). But the leaf had to be freshly transected. That is, the leaf had to be presented with some of its capsules already ruptured; intact leaves were tolerated by the ants.
Chemical work showed the oil to contain 12 volatile terpenoid components, of which the principal constituent, (+)-trans-pulegol, was a previously unknown natural product (Eisner and others 1990; McCormick and others 1993). Finding a new insect repellent was exciting, especially because D. frutescens was an unusual plant. The species had been discovered only in 1962, has a range of only a few hundred acres, and was already on the endangered species list (Middleton and Liittschwager 1994). Were most of its acreage not part of a protected site (the Archbold Biological Station), the plant would be in serious danger of being obliterated.
There was more to be found in this endangered species. Mycological work showed D. frutescens to contain upward of 20 endosymbiotic fungi. Some remain to be identified, and none has been exhaustively screened for bioactive materials;
but one has already been shown to be the source of an antifungal toxin (Chapela and Clardy, unpublished).
The information stored in the biotic world is boundless and has only begun to be accessed. Some 1.5 million species have been described, compared with the 10–20 million that are conservatively estimated to exist (Wilson and Peter 1988). Most of what we have to learn from nature remains to be discovered.
Who will make the discoveries, and for what purpose? Will it be the molecular biologist alone, the person who by virtue of a reductionist commitment wishes to access only the chemical and genetic “basics” of nature? I would argue that the naturalist has at least as much to contribute to this endeavor, in that field observation, beyond its descriptive aspects, also provides leads to molecular and genetic novelties. By using the above examples, I have tried to make this point. The dichotomy between molecular biology and natural history is artificial; the practitioners of these disciplines would do best to work in concert.
Natural history is in no fundamental way altered by its broadened molecular mission. What the naturalist has to offer will continue to have universal appeal (Greene 1986; Moffett 1993; Nuridsany and Pérennou 1996; Wilson 1984) and to contribute as it always has to such established disciplines as ecology, evolution, behavior, and systematics. But because discovery in nature has molecular implications these days, as well as vast potential for commercialization, the activity of the naturalist takes on new value. The naturalist, more than any other scientist, has the ability to list species by “chemical promise.” By virtue of observational skills alone, naturalists have the capacity to sort out phenomena and point to those which might indicate the presence of chemicals (and genes) of potential interest to medicine, agriculture, or material sciences. This capacity makes naturalists extremely valuable members of the scientific enterprise, but they remain singularly unaware of their worth, just as the commercial establishment is ignorant of what they can provide.
Natural history is essentially deinstitutionalized. Hardly any academic courses teach how to discover in nature and how to assess, in conventional as well as molecular terms, the value of what simple observation can reveal. Naturalists will need to be trained worldwide and brought into the scientific mainstream. They are needed as explorers and as partners in applied science and industry. But most important, they are needed to speak for conservation. Ultimately, it is the explorer who is most aware of what we all stand to lose if the objects of exploration vanish. The example of the mint plant speaks for itself.
My research has been supported largely by the National Institutes of Health. Collaborators who deserve special thanks are Jerrold Meinwald, Daniel J. Aneshansley, and Maria Eisner. I dedicate this paper affectionately to the memory of Rosalind Alsop (1940–1997), naturalist, research partner, and friend.
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An Emerging Field
The loss of biodiversitythe entire wealth of plant and animal speciesis perhaps the most important problem that faces our fragile planet. Unwittingly and unremittingly, our species is in the process of bringing about an unprecedented biological disaster. In the wake of our growth and development lie hundreds of thousands of extinct species that are gone forever. The process of extinction continues, and today even larger numbers of species are threatened. Such losses undermine the ecological fabric that sustains the web of life, including human life. Ironically, this massive wave of species extinctions is foreclosing the discovery of new medicines and remedies from natural sources. Society has seemed illequipped to deal with these health crises, because we lack professionals who have the interdisciplinary skills to link the health issues of ecosystems, animals, and humans.
The health and well-being of people and other animals are threatened by the effects of humans on ecosystems, including the large-scale alteration and destruction of habitat, the decline and extinction of species, the alteration of ecological processes, the invasion of nonnative (alien) species, the continued economic emphasis on short-term bottom-line thinking, and the spread of contaminants and hazardous substances through all levels of the food chain. Animal health and human health are inextricably connected through the ecological realities that govern life on our planet.
The health of individuals, species, and populations and the more encompassing notion of environmental health represent a continuum of the way in which health concerns currently are defined. At all levels, the complexity of health
issues is being revealed. The landscape of understanding includes a greater awareness of the synergism of cumulative effects and multiple stresses. As the scientific ability to study environmental perturbations and ecosystem dynamics improves, new patterns of disease transmission and alarming health effects are emerging.
What is Conservation Medicine?
The term conservation medicine was first introduced by Koch (1996) to mean the study of the broad ecological contexts of health. It tries to relate concerns about the health of all living organisms to the integrity of ecosystems. The overlap of veterinary medicine, human medicine, and conservation biology forms the knowledge base for this field.
The field of veterinary medicine long has been recognized for its comparative approach. Until recently, it primarily addressed the health and productivity of animals owned by people. But veterinarians increasingly are concerned with turning their skills to the health of wild animals and their habitats. Physicians also are recognizing that conservation of biodiversity is important, to protect species that provide a buffer against the emergence of pests and pathogens and that serve as potential medical models of and environmental sentinels for human health. Conservation biologists are working with veterinarians and physicians to expand beyond conventional paradigms of health and examine human and animal health through an ecological lens. By bringing the three disciplines together, new areas of research, education, policy, and training can be engaged. In short, solutions to future concerns about environmental health will be related to the development of effective interdisciplinary tools and modes of problem-solving.
Conserving the integrity of the biosphere is the applied goal of conservation medicine. It attempts to provide a cognitive framework for examining health functions within ecosystems. As health problems related to environmental degradation multiply and magnify in importance, health professionals increasingly will be relied on to comment on environmental strategies and to advise communities taking part in processes of environmental decision-making. In their publicly perceived roles as educators, all conservationists need to understand and articulate the linkage between human and animal health and intact ecosystems. Ultimately, as concerned citizens of the world, we must work together to define the appropriate balance between the needs of people, domestic animals, and wildlife in the face of finite amounts of energy, land, and other resources.
Some Current Challenges:
Interfaces Between Medicine and Conservation
Emerging and Re-Emerging Diseases
The influence of parasites and disease on human health and demographics rarely is questioned. Such recent books as The Coming Plagues (Garrett 1994) and such classics as Rats, Lice, and History (Zinsser 1963) have reflected our all-too-
human interest in health threats that directly affect us and those close to us. Historically, conservationists and wildlife professionals have ignored or downplayed the effects of these same pressures on wildlife populations and natural systems until species became endangered.
However, as Garrett (1994) points out so eloquently, ecological perturbations are fast bringing down the barriers that once limited human-to-animal disease transmission. New variants of the cholera-causing organism, Vibrio cholerae, have been found moving in intercontinental patterns within marine algal blooms that are associated with red-tide phenomena and the periodic occurrence of El Niñosouthern oscillation events (Epstein 1993). Strains of Hantavirus that have fatality rates of nearly 55% in humans have emerged in regions that exhibit disturbances of habitat and climate (Epstein 1995). Outbreaks of Pfiesteria piscida, a toxic dinoflagellate, in the Chesapeake Bay of Maryland recently have created headlines. Blooms of Pfiesteria associated with large-scale fish kills and disease in both people and animals have been linked to nutrient-rich agricultural runoff (Anonymous 1997; Barker 1997; Steidinger and others 1996).
In those instances, alarm has arisen because of concern for human health. The effects of the pathogens on populations of domestic or wild animals and natural ecosystems are poorly understood, but there are many examples in which health effects of human activities on animal populations are understood more clearly (Dobson and May 1982; Thorne and Williams 1988). For instance, the introduction of tuberculosis from humans to populations of orangutans and other endangered primates has serious implications for the long-term existence of these species in the wild (Jones 1982). Predators and diseases, plus disease vectors and reservoirs that people have introduced either purposefully or accidentally, have led to the extinction of many endemic Hawaiian bird species, and they threaten many more (van Riper and other 1986).
Chronic Toxic Pollutants
In parallel with the growing awareness of emerging infectious diseases, concerns about the effects of chronic exposure to toxic chemicals have surfaced as well (Colburn and others 1996). Bioaccumulation of selenium from agricultural runoff in the western United States has caused large-scale fish mortality, deformity and death in fish-eating birds and mammals, and the closure of some protected federal wildlife refuges (Botkin and Keller 1997). Endocrine-disrupting chemicals are suspected of producing widespread effects on the reproductive systems of fish, reptiles and amphibians, birds, and mammals, including humans (Colborn and Clement 1992). The bioaccumulation of persistent and widespread toxic substances may have effects that range from congenital defects to promotion of cancer, reproductive diseases, and increased susceptibility to disease (for example, immunological dysfunctions) (Botkin and Keller 1997; Colborn and Clement 1992; Colborn and others 1996). Although the precise mechanistic relationships between the biological activities of these toxic substances and disease are not understood completely, the trend is disturbing and underscores the need to examine the persistence of chemicals within the environment in an entirely new light.
Compromised Health of Ecosystems
At another level, the health of ecosystems is threatened by increased fragmentation of habitat, decreased ecological resilience, unbalanced proportions of predators and prey, introductions of alien species, changes in global climate, enhanced ultraviolet radiation, and the multitrophic-cascade effects related to disturbance and extinction (Carpenter and Kitchell 1993; Epstein 1993; Hollings 1996; Kreuss and Tscharntke 1994; Malcolm and Markham 1996). The integrity of ecosystems and the species they comprise is being undermined daily by incremental catastrophes.
Each discipline approaches problem-solving from its own perspective and with its own set of inherent biases. Both medical and conservation professionals need to adopt new attitudes if truly creative interdisciplinary problem-solving is to occur. When asked what physicians and veterinarians needed to learn to play a more constructive role in conservation, one wildlife biologist recently remarked, “They should learn to leave their white coats and attitudes at home!” (A. Major, USFWS, pers. comm.). Clearly, we need to get to know each other better. A mutual respect for the knowledge and abilities of other professionals is an important prerequisite to progress.
The Goals of Conservation Medicine
The goal of conservation medicine is the integration of the diagnostic and problem-solving tools of medical professionals with the ecological and management knowledge of conservation professionals to preserve biodiversity and maintain the health of interdependent species (including humans).
One outcome of this synergy might be the creation of an integrated appraisal process for examining ecological health concerns. Such an appraisal process would try to incorporate the concepts of sustainability, life-cycle analysis, and systems thinking (Anderson and Johnson 1997; Clark 1993). By emphasizing the use of contextual knowledge in decision-making and diagnosis, an integrated health assessment could serve as such a tool. How this tool is defined and used deserves a separate, more extensive discussion. We mention it here as a possible example of how the talents and skills of multiple disciplines within the sciences and social sciences can be organized practically.
Conservation medicine is in its infancy. We are only beginning to define the tasks that can achieve its overall goal. Those tasks include the following:
• training environmentally literate health professionals;
• breaking down disciplinary barriers to communication and cooperation;
• establishing the scientific underpinnings of the interrelationships between human, animal, and environmental health;
• encouraging broad participation in public education; specific targets include policy-makers, voters, and children;
• being active in developing conservation and health policies that integrate human and animal concerns;
• encouraging broader definitions for concepts of health; and
• developing assistive technical applications, including
-noninvasive diagnostic and therapeutic tools;
-conservation-oriented reproductive biology, genetics, and medicine;
-techniques to minimize the spread of exotic species and diseases;
-development of epidemiological models that will integrate data on wildlife, human, and domestic animal health to improve understanding of the ecological dynamics of health and disease;
-techniques for capture, restraint, anesthesia, and analgesia; and
-techniques for determining age and marking and tracking individuals.
As natural communities shrink, wildlife populations decline and come under more stresses, and populations of humans and domestic animals grow, there are an increased number of health problems in all species and new opportunities for disease to cross taxonomic lines. Achievement of the tasks listed above will enable health professionals to develop the nontraditional skills and broad environmental concerns needed to work constructively as members of multidisciplinary conservation efforts.
If it is granted that biodiversity is at high risk, what is to be done? The solution will require cooperation among professions long separated by academic and practical tradition.
E.O. Wilson (1992)
Over time, the roles of veterinary and human medical practitioners have expanded with society's understanding of the relationships between species. The health community as a whole has a latent capacity to address environmental-health issues, but this will require new ways of thinking and new tools. We hope that through working with a diversity of environmental professionals, we can do for environmental health what medicine is trying to do for human and animal health: change the focus from the treatment of a pathological condition to the maintenance of health.
Conservation medicine can be characterized as a work in progress. It provides a framework for bringing the health-science professions into the realm of conserving biological diversity and ecosystems and for infusing conservation biology thinking into the health pedagogy. In the end, we hope to use this approach to help people understand that esoteric concepts like “conservation of biodiversity” are intimately connected to their own personal health and that of animals. We also hope that this paper will stimulate thinking and discussion and will lead to the further definition of how the medical perspective can bring added value to conservation efforts.
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How Countries with Limited Resources are Dealing with Biodiversity Problems
In the decade since the groundbreaking publication of Biodiversity (Wilson and Peter 1988), we have made considerable progress in promoting the conservation of the world's diversity of genes, species, and ecosystems. That publication led to comprehensive new approaches to conservation, bringing information, knowledge, awareness, and ethics into a complex mixture of protected areas, agriculture, economics, intellectual-property rights, land tenure, trade, forestry, and so forth. It also led to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which now has been ratified by 172 countries (the United States is one of the handful of holdouts). It also has led to considerable scientific work in the field, as evidenced by this conference, numerous books and journals, and various other manifestations of interest and concern.
All this effort has led to greatly increased understanding about biodiversity and the threats to it. It is now well known that most of the world's species are found in the tropics, frequently in the countries that have the least financial, technical, and institutional means to conserve biodiversity (see table 1).
How, then, are the tropical countries coping with the challenge of conserving biodiversity? At least a partial answer is provided by table 2, which demonstrates that the tropical developing countries are making a substantial effort to establish protected areas, a major objective of which is to conserve biological diversity. In this effort, they are supported by the industrialized countries through various bilateral-aid agencies and through the Global Environment Facility, operated by the World Bank, United Nations Development Programme, and United Nations Environment Programme to provide several hundred US million dollars per year for
biodiversity according to the priorities identified by the Conference of Parties of the CBD.
The CBD stresses the importance of international, regional, and global cooperation between states, intergovernment organizations, and the nongovernment sector in supporting action to conserve biological diversity and use biological resources sustainably. This is a clear recognition of the need of governments to collaborate with each other and with various kinds of multilateral and bilateral organizations if they are to be successful in their efforts to manage biological resources sustainably. Effects in one statefor example, consumption of such products as ivory, tiger bones, and medicinal plantsmay affect biodiversity pro-
foundly in another. When species migrate between countries, wildlife populations are shared, making collaboration essential to their conservation. Furthermore, by definition, the obligations of the CBD for sharing technology and the benefits derived from the use of genetic material require cooperation between states.
The CBD specifically mentions the private sector and nongovernment organizations (NGOs), which include businesses, academe, citizen groups, and various kinds of private conservation organizations. The NGO community includes a large proportion of the world's leading scientists who are working on biodiversity issues and who have played a major role in advocating the need to conserve biodiversity. NGOs can bring commitment, innovation, clarity of purpose, and practical knowledge to environmental and developmental issues, and they often are especially effective at the local level.
This paper is a brief review of measures under the CBD for international cooperation to support national conservation efforts.
How the Convention on Biological Diversity Promotes International Cooperation
While stressing national sovereignty over biodiversity, the CBD also strongly emphasizes international cooperation. It specifically recognizes that “the provision of new and additional financial resources and appropriate access to relevant technologies can be expected to make a substantial difference in the world's ability to address the loss of biological diversity.” It also acknowledges that “special provision is required to meet the needs of developing countries, including the provision of new and additional financial resources and appropriate access to relevant technologies.” Signatories acknowledge that “substantial investments are
required to conserve biological diversity and that there is the expectation of a broad range of environmental, economic, and social benefits from those investments” (see Glowka and others 1994 for a guide to the CBD).
The CBD recognizes that the conservation of biodiversity and the sustainable use of biological resources are critically important for meeting the dietary, medicinal and other needs of the growing world population, for which purpose genetic resources and relevant technologies play an essential role.
Furthermore, the CBD expects that “the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity will strengthen friendly relations among states and contribute to peace for humankind.” This implicitly recognizes the principle of ecological securitythat the peace and stability of a nation depend not only on its conventional military defenses, but also on its environmental stability. Environmental degradation within a country can result in social collapse and appalling human tragedies, leading to disputes within and between nations and even, ultimately, to war. In particular, overexploitation of resources shared between nations, such as water supplies and fish stocks, also can lead to conflict (see, for example, Homer-Dixon 1994). Therefore, stemming the loss of biodiversity contributes to peace and harmony between nations.
Elements of the CBD that are specifically relevant to international cooperation include the following.
• Article 3. Principle. “States have, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of international law, the sovereign right to exploit their own resources pursuant to their own environmental policies, and the responsibility to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to the environment of other States or of areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction.”
• Article 5. Cooperation. “Each Contracting Party shall, as far as possible and as appropriate, cooperate with other Contracting Parties, directly or, where appropriate, through competent international organizations, in respect of areas beyond national jurisdiction and on other matters of mutual interest, for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.”
• Article 8. In situ conservation. “Each Contracting Party shall, as far as possible and as appropriate: (m) cooperate in providing financial and other support for in situ conservation . . . particularly to developing countries.”
• Article 9. Ex situ conservation. “Each Contracting Party shall, as far as possible and as appropriate, and predominantly for the purpose of complementing in situ measures: (e) cooperate in providing financial and other support for ex situ conservation . . . . and in the establishment and maintenance of ex situ conservation facilities in developing countries.”
• Article 12. Research and training. “The Contracting Parties, taking into account the special needs of developing countries, shall: (a) establish and maintain programmes for scientific and technical education and training in measures for the identification, conservation, and sustainable use of biological diversity and its components and provide support for such education and training for the specific needs of developing countries.”
• Article 13. Public education and awareness. “The Contracting Parties shall: (b) cooperate, as 0appropriate, with other States and international organizations in developing educational and public awareness programmes, with respect to conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity.”
• Article 15. Access to genetic resources. “2. Each Contracting Party shall endeavour to create conditions to facilitate access to genetic resources for environmentally-sound uses by Contracting Parties and not to impose restrictions that run counter to the objectives of this Convention. 4. Access, where granted, shall be on mutually agreed terms and subject to the provisions of this Article. 5. Access to genetic resources shall be subject to prior informed consent of the Contracting Party providing such resources, unless otherwise determined by that Party. 6. Each Contracting Party shall endeavour to develop and carry out scientific research based on genetic resources provided by other Contracting Parties with the full participation of, and where possible in, such Contracting Parties.”
• Article 16. Access to and transfer of technology. “Each Contracting Party . . . undertakes to provide and/or facilitate access for and transfer to other Contracting Parties of technologies that are relevant to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity or make use of genetic resources and do not cause significant damage to the environment. Access to and transfer of technology to developing countries shall be provided and/or facilitated under fair and most favourable terms, including on concessional and preferential terms where mutually agreed.”
• Article 17. Exchange of information. “The Contracting Parties shall facilitate the exchange of information, from all publicly available sources, relevant to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, taking into account the special needs of developing countries.”
• Article 18. Technical and scientific cooperation. “The Contracting Parties shall promote international technical and scientific cooperation in the field of conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, where necessary through the appropriate international and national institutions.”
• Article 20. Financial resources. “The developed country Parties shall provide new and additional financial resources to enable developing country Parties to meet the agreed full incremental costs to them of implementing measures which fulfill the obligations of this Convention and to benefit from its provisions.”
What Developing Countries are Doing for Themselves
This list of internationally agreed principles might imply that the developing countries are dependent on the largesse of the developed countries to take care of their own biodiversity. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Virtually all countries in the tropics have implemented a wide range of measures to conserve their own biodiversity and to use their biological resources sustainably. Of course, they can do even better if they receive additional support, but many of them are turning difficult circumstances to their advantage by using innovative and costeffective approaches to conservation and sustainable use.
One issue of particular interest, because it affects both cultural diversity and biological diversity, is the role of indigenous groups and local communities in managing protected areas.
Indigenous peoples often have cultural values and institutions that differ from those of the dominant culture within which they are found. As Alcorn (1997) has pointed out, most indigenous peoples are politically marginal groups that are known variously as tribals, hill tribes, or other such terms. They often claim property rights to ancestral lands and waters and the right to retain their own customary laws, traditions, languages, and institutions, as well as the right to represent themselves through their own institutions. Furthermore, indigenous peoples that live in areas that are important for conservation are linked closely to their local resource base and frequently have developed resource-management systems and social institutions that are responsive to environmental feedback. Thus, their local knowledge has a particular contribution to make to protected-area management.
But the primary reason why managers of protected areas in the tropics are recognizing the decision-making authority of indigenous peoples is that they have prior rights over the lands and waters in which protected areas are being established, and many would assert that such peoples have rights to make decisions about how to manage their ancestral lands. Indeed, article 8(j) of the CBD says, “Subject to its national legislation, [each Contracting Party shall] respect, preserve, and maintain knowledge, innovations, and practices of indigenous and local communities embodying traditional lifestyles relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity and promote their wider application with the approval and involvement of the holders of such knowledge, innovations, and practices and encourage the equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilization of such knowledge, innovations, and practices.”
In most parts of the tropics, rural villagers believe that they have historical rights to the land and resources that governments have declared “protected” in the national interest (for example, Vandergeest 1996). No areas of “empty” land exist that could be managed free of human influence, although most governments have followed the European model of claiming all forests to be the property of government. This conflict has led to the wide recognition that conservation of biodiversity cannot succeed unless it is linked to economic opportunities and investments aimed at those who otherwise might threaten the viability of protected areas through their activities in pursuit of their livelihood.
The increasing attention given to local communities does not imply necessarily that local communities are the major threat to protected areas and the biodiversity they support. In fact, in most tropical countries, the major threats to protected areas come from outside influences, such as government-supported timber concessions, road-building activities, agricultural subsidies, mining concessions, dam construction, expanding populations, air and water pollution, and (in the longer term) climate change. Most such problems need to be addressed as part of regional planning and central government policy rather than protected-area management.
People can be expected reasonably to institute their own conservation measures when they are the primary decision-makers and beneficiaries. Numerous examples can be cited from various parts of the world (for example, Birckhead and others
1992; Kemf 1993; Kothari and others 1996; Stone 1991; UNEP 1988; Wells and Brandon 1992; West and Brechin 1991; Western and others 1994). These examples support the general point that earning the support of local communities means giving them a stake in the success of a well-managed protected area.
When areas within the traditional territories of indigenous peoples are managed as limited-access extractive reserves, they may be considered legitimate protected areas worthy of international recognition. In Australian “indigenous protected areas”, for example, land tenure is vested with the aboriginal people, but the land usually is managed by the National Conservation Agency under a leasing arrangement.
In Nicaragua, the Miskito people have formed their own NGO, “Mikupia”, to manage the Miskito Coast Protected Areas, overseen by a commission that includes four representatives from the national government, one from the regional government, one from the Mikupia, and two from the Miskito communities (Barzetti 1993).
In Peru, the 322,500-hectare Tamshiyacu-Tahuayo Communal Reserve contains no permanent settlements (Bodmer and others 1991). It is divided into a fully protected core area and an area of subsistence use. Actions voluntarily implemented by the local people to control exploitation include prohibition of the use of nets and lances in the oxbow lakes of the reserve during low-water seasons, limitations on fishing technology, prohibition of commercial fisheries, and prohibition of the use of fish poisons. Fish populations in the area appear to be rebuilding, and the local communities are benefiting directly from their self-imposed management programs.
In the Philippines, the Kalahan Education Foundation, a local NGO established by the Ikalahan Tribe, is implementing an integrated program of community forest management and the extraction of nontimber forest products, leading to the production of jams and jellies from forest fruits, the extraction of essential oils, the collection and cultivation of flowers and mushrooms, and the manufacture of furniture. The foundation is based on the Kalahan reserve, which supports about 550 Ikalahan families that live within the 14,730-hectare reserve of ancestral land.
In eastern Indonesia, many fishing villages have established a form of marine protected area called petuanang as part of a body of traditional resource-management practices known as sasi. The pentuanang has certain closed seasons and is carefully managed in terms of permitted fishing techniques, and only certain types of fishing gear are permitted (Spiller 1997). However, more recently, the demand for increased production of fish for trade and export has weakened the control of village leaders in managing traditional resource-management systems, although modern approaches to participatory planning could help resurrect the traditional management systems that worked well for many generations.
In Papua New Guinea, where about 97% of land is in community ownership, the government has established wildlife-management areas where local communities voluntarily agree to certain controls on exploitation (Eaton 1985). Each wildlife-management area has a wildlife management committee with representatives from local communities and from resource-management agencies of the government. These committees have instituted such measures as royalties for the
taking of deer, ducks, and fish by outsiders; hunting restrictions, such as forbidding all nontraditional hunting methods, the use of shotguns, and the use of dogs; prohibition of the collection of crocodile eggs; fishing restrictions, such as forbidding the use of commercially manufactured nets, hurricane lamps, and fish poisons; and restrictions on logging. In all areas, the rules enacted tend to promote traditional practices and authority.
Interestingly enough, many developing-country governments are finding that conservation actually pays, especially through tourism. For example, Galapagos National Park generated direct revenues of US$3.7 million in 1995. The Galapagos National Park kept about a third of the receipts, and the rest was used to support protected areas on the mainland of Ecuador (Southgate 1996). Some protected-areas systems in the Caribbean do even better, largely because of dive tourism. Divers spend about US$30 million per year at the Bonaire Marine Park in the Netherlands Antilles, US$14 million in protected areas in the British Virgin Islands, more than US$53 million per year in marine protected areas in the Cayman Islands, and US$23 million in Virgin Islands National Park on St. John (OAS/NPS 1988).
Not surprisingly, some governments are turning to the private sector to help earn greater benefits from tourism. For example, through the Zambia Privatisation Agency, the Zambian National Parks and Wildlife Service offered some 25 prime locations in the parks on competitive-tender lease. These locations include sites in the Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park, at Victoria Falls, and in the South Luangwa National Park, Kafue National Park, and Blue Lagoon National Park. Sites include government-owned lodges, camps, and other tourist attractions.
Some private tourism companies also are seeking ways to contribute to protected areas. One illustration of corporate approaches to funding conservation through tourism is Operation Eye of the Tiger which has been established with funding from Outdoor India Tours Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, and has links with Kentucky Fried Chicken in the United States. This operation has pledged to create disturbance-free habitats for tigers, to carry out ecodevelopment and conservation education, and to promote research on the tiger, its habitat, and its allied species.
The National Parks Trust of South Africa has negotiated an agreement with the Conservation Corporation, a private group, for the management of the Ngala Game Reserve. This led to the establishment in 1992 of the first “contract reserve” between Kruger National Park and a private enterprise, giving the Conservation Corporation exclusive rights for operating tourist activities in 14,000 hectares of the park. The fees paid to the park are used for wildlife management, research, educational programs, and community-based projects adjacent to Kruger National Park (Borrini-Feyerabend 1996).
How Ngos are Supporting Protected Areas in the Tropics
Recognizing that governments are unable to take full responsibility for all protected areas, NGOs have stepped in in many countries to provide their flexible
and creative approaches to overall plans for national protected-area systems. NGOs are playing a particularly important role in Latin America (Redford and Ostria 1995), including the following:
• The Programme for Belize (PFB) has been given responsibility for management of the 92,614-hectare Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area and for holding the land in trust for the people of Belize. Originally supported by private donations, PFB hopes to earn sufficient revenue from forest products and tourism to become self-sustaining.
• In Guatemala, the Fundacion Defensores de la Naturaleza was given authority in 1990 by the Guatemalan Congress to manage the operations and administration of the Sierra de las Minas Biosphere Reserve (236,300 hectares), including the work of the park guards; it is in charge of management decisions, including training, infrastructure, and communications, under the supervision of the National Council of Protected Areas.
• In Panama, the Asociacion Nacional Para la Conservacion de la Naturaleza has an agreement with Panama's Institute for Natural Renewable Resources (INRENARE) to demarcate the boundaries of the Darien Biosphere Reserve (597,000 hectares), to train and equip park personnel, to install infrastructure, and to conduct biological inventories.
• In Bolivia, the Fundacion Amigos de la Naturaleza (FAN) has been granted a 10-year management contract by the National Department for the Conservation of Biodiversity for the Noel Kempff Mercado National Park (927,000 hectares). FAN is responsible for hiring rangers, building infrastructure, and helping to reduce poaching.
• In Colombia, the Fundacion Pro-Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is responsible for managing three areas within the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta National Park (300,000 hectares), including land-protection and community-outreach activities.
• In Ecuador, the Fundacion Natura has a formal agreement with the Ministry of Agriculture to participate and collaborate in the management of protected areas, working on training staff and raising funds, including facilitating a debt-for-nature swap valued at US$10 million.
• In Paraguay, the Fundacion Moises Bertoni is legally responsible for managing the Mbaracayu Forest Nature Reserve (63,000 hectares).
Governments are beginning to give greater legal recognition to the role of NGOs in protected areas. In 1993, the congress of Colombia passed a law that recognized the role of civil society in conservation and named private reserves as legal conservation units. Colombia now has some 120 private protected areas that are mobilized into the Network of Private Nature Reserves, an NGO that comprises private farmers and landowners, community organizations, agricultural cooperatives, and other NGOs.
In the Philippines, partnerships have been formed between the public and private sectors by integrating the assistance of NGOs into the management of protected areas at national and local levels. A new NGO, known as the NGO for Integrated Protected Areas, Inc. (NIPA), has been established to recruit and co-
ordinate local support activities, to provide technical assistance, to monitor implementation, and to assist in the establishment and implementation of a livelihood fund that will be used to support village socioeconomic-development projects and employment activities designed to reduce pressures on the protected areas. NIPA now is supporting work at 10 high-priority protected areas in the Philippines, establishing protected-area management boards consisting of local governments, NGOs, and representatives of indigenous peoples. NIPA has recruited local NGOs to assist with field activities, community organizing, and strengthening of the protected-area management boards. Progress is promising, and communities are now aware of the need to integrate conservation and development activities.
NGOs also are involved in supporting the effective management of Indonesia's Kerinci-Seblat and Lore Lindu National Parks (Elliott and others 1993). In Kerinci-Seblat, four provincial NGO alliances are working on soil- and water-conservation projects in five park-boundary villages; in Lore Lindu, four small NGO alliances are implementing a range of community-development activities in the Lake Lindu enclave. These NGOs are providing an effective channel for reaching local communities, a critical element in the success of integrated conservation and development projects. However, the NGOs are not self-supporting. They require access to technical expertise, training in technical and managerial skills, and funding for overhead and field activities. Java-based national NGOs and international NGOs, such as The Nature Conservancy, are serving as intermediaries between donors and the local NGOs, thereby overcoming some of the operational constraints that grassroots NGOs face when working with donors.
One example of a grassroots NGO working in support of a protected area is the Foundation for Community Development in Indonesia's Wasur National Park. This new local NGO has a field staff of community organizers; a management board of community representatives, teachers, and other informal leaders; and a steering committee that is composed of government officials, a representative of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the head of the local government, and community representatives. Although the legal status of the foundation is just being established, it is already working in the park to help local communities meet their immediate economic needs (Barber and others 1995).
At the opposite end of the spectrum is a remarkable new quasi-NGO, the Leuser International Foundation (LIF). In 1995, this private nonprofit organization was granted a 7-year, renewable, exclusive “conservation concession” for a contiguous area that includes the existing Gunung Leuser National Park (905,000 hectares), 505,000 hectares of protection forest, and 380,000 hectares of production forest in Sumatra, Indonesia. This concession grants LIF the right to manage and coordinate activities for conservation and sustainable development within the ecosystem, on the basis of objectives and work plans that are reviewed and approved by the minister of forestry. The long-term objective of the project is to transform the area within the boundaries of the ecosystem into an expanded national park that has multiple use zoning, as mandated in Indonesia's Conservation Act of 1990 (Rijksen and Griffiths 1995). The government concluded a financing agreement with the European Union in May 1995, under which the European Union has provided a grant of US$40.6 millionto be matched by US$22.5 mil-
lion from the Indonesian governmentto LIF for its conservation activities. Under this concession, LIF essentially is assuming the government's role of making and implementing conservation and development policy for a particular site, albeit within a framework of government supervision. Discussions also have been held within the ministry of forestry concerning a possible expansion of LIF's concession to include a monopoly on selling the value of Leuser's carbon-sequestration function on the international market that is beginning to develop under the impetus of the Framework Convention on Climate Change (Barber and Nababan 1997).
In Nepal, the King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation (KMTNC), a semiautonomous, nongovernment, nonprofit organization, has been established for the purpose of conserving, preserving, and managing nature and its resources in an effort to improve the quality of life of the Nepali people. KMTNC is designed to raise funds for the development and management of protected areas and to execute projects; it has established associated national trusts in the UK, Japan, the Netherlands, France, Germany, and Canada. It has worked in Sagarmatha National Park, Chitwan National Park, the Annapurna Conservation Area Project, and elsewhere on various aspects of protected-area management. KMTNC is managed by a board of directors that comprises various senior government and nongovernment officials and several representatives of the international community.
A major innovation for Nepal is enabling the Annapurna Conservation Area (762,900 hectares) to be managed by KMTNC, which is able to raise money directly from overseas (especially from WWF) and has considerable autonomy, enabling it to bypass many of the procedures associated with government agencies and to execute projects with a relatively slim and flexible bureaucracy. In the Annapurna Conservation Area, KMTNC has an autonomous and substantial role in managing an innovative multiple-use conservation area that is probably a unique arrangement for an NGO in Asia. Its main management objectives include forestry and wildlife conservation, alternative-energy development, community education, and tourism, and it fully involves local residents in the planning and management of the natural resources of the area. Management costs are supported by entrance fees charged to tourists in the conservation area (US$13/day).
These examples show that NGOs, supported by both domestic and international funding, have played important roles in conserving biodiversity in various parts of the tropics. They often provide an extremely useful supplement to government-organized initiatives.
International Cooperation to Provide Financial Support to Biodiversity in the Tropics
It is widely appreciated that insufficient funds are being invested to conserve biodiversity and that innovative approaches are required for generating the additional financial support required for implementing the CBD (Li 1995; Newcombe 1995; World Resources Institute 1989). The need for additional resources arises
from the imbalance between a country's need for capacity-building and provision of basic infrastructure for conserving biodiversity and the country's ability to mobilize resources. Resources can be augmented through existing mechanisms, such as the fiscal system, user charges, resource rental fees, and privatization, as well as through such new mechanisms as environmental taxes and betterment charges. Even so, it appears that domestic resources in most developing countries will continue to be inadequate for financing the conservation of biodiversity, because of the limited tax and capital base of many of these countries, their underdeveloped taxation systems and weak capital markets, and the need to divert resources to servicing foreign debt. The reasons external financial resources are needed to conserve biodiversity are listed in figure 1.
In this section of this paper, I briefly surveyed promising innovations in financing the conservation of biodiversity and described each financial tool and the policies, technologies, and entrepreneurial initiatives that make the tool successful. I estimated the importance of each tool, described limits to its wider use, and identified actions that could enhance that tool's leverage. My emphasis was on innovative tools that are relatively poorly known.
FIGURE 1 Reasons external financial resources are needed to conserve biodiversity.
This discussion seeks to help the widest range of investors who could and should have a hand in crafting and using these financial tools. They include the full spectrum of those both active and potentially active in the conservation of biodiversity: the international governing system; national governments; the private sector, both national and multinational; and NGOs, both local and international. Table 3 gives an overview of the characteristics of various funding mechanisms (McNeely and Weatherly 1996; Panayotou 1995).
With the global economy now dependent on the reliable flow of biological resources from all parts of the world, international cooperation is essential for ensuring that biological resources are used in a sustainable way that leads to the conservation of biological diversity. Such cooperation can produce many benefits, but these depend, above all, on adequate investments in the field of biodiversity. The wealthy industrialized countries have recognized that they can benefit from biological resources that are found in developing countries, whose economic conditions do not enable them to invest adequately in conserving biodiversity. The developing countries are showing a remarkable capacity for innovation, as the examples from local communities and NGOs have shown, but they need funding. The Convention on Biological Diversity is one means of determining the kinds of activities that are most suitable in which to invest. Clearly, international cooperation in implementing the Convention on Biological Diversity will lead to increased support of the developing countries whose own efforts at conservation are helping to make the world a better place for all people to live in.
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Biodiversity and Sustainable Human Development:
The Costa Rican Agenda
Biodiversity, particularly tropical biodiversity, has been the focus of public attention in recent years, and much has been written about the compelling arguments that support ensuring its conservation into perpetuity. It is clear that biodiversity must be conserved for ethical, aesthetic, spiritual, and economic reasons. Numerous national and international agreements address these issues. The specific need to harmonize conservation with the socioeconomic development of populations is addressed by the Convention on Biological Diversity.
It is then necessary to face the challenge of implementing biodiversity conservation at a country level and in its social, political, cultural, and economic contexts. Regrettably, there are very few examples of how countries can attain the desired balance between conservation and development.
This paper describes the historical and continuing efforts of Costa Rica in its quest for a model of development that simultaneously allows the conservation of its biological patrimony and satisfies the basic requirements of its population. These efforts are now an integral part of the emerging “sustainable human development” initiative and paradigm, which are expected to guide the country into the next century as it faces the challenges of today's changing world.
Costa Rica is a biologically rich but economically poor, small, developing tropical country that has consolidated as a democracy in the absence of an army and has given high priority to investment in health, education, and welfare. In spite of numerous financial and organizational limitations, which are typical of developing countries, Costa Rica is making substantial advances in integrating biodiversity values into the mainstream of its development.
The Roots of the Quest for a Sustainable Model of Development in Costa Rica
The relationship between humanity and nature constitutes an issue of growing concern in Costa Rica. The concern stems from the features that have characterized the country's course of development and from the prevailing values and paradigms that are expected to guide Costa Rican society's development in the future.
The aspirations of Costa Rican society are well interpreted in the following paragraph (Arias 1989):
When we work for development, we are seeking an austere and fair life style. We want a society where everybody can satisfy at least his/her basic needs. We do not aspire to a model of development above our possibilities, nor to a society of welfare for a few and of suffering for many. We are neither a part of the armament race, nor a part of an uncontrolled race of economic growth at any cost, that threatens the environment or subdues our people to pressures that weaken our social convenience. We are looking for peace based on the absence of misery, for a democracy more and more participatory and for access to the welfare education provides.
Costa Rica's quest for sustainable biodiversity development is part of a broader initiative of national sustainable human development. In the last 50 years, Costa Rica has followed a development path unique in its region, characterized by a stable political system based on a disarmed democratic government, high economic growth rates (table 1), and substantial advances in social indicators. The product of a sustainable social policy, this process has resulted in high life expectancy and low levels of illiteracy. The proportion of low-income homes was reduced by more than half in 36 years (from 1960 to 1996), and infant mortality to less than one-fourth of what it was in 1960; the human population more than doubled in the same period (MIDEPLAN 1997; Proyecto Estado de la Nación 1994).
The country has naturally made errors. One is that Costa Rica's development model has been based to a great extent on nonsustainable use of natural resources, which has caused the rapid depletion of a substantial portion of the country's
forest cover. Between 1950 and 1970, Costa Rica lost one-third of its primary forest cover (Hartshorn and others 1982).
The agriculture sector is and has been in the last 50 years one of the main engines of economic development and a generator of the gross national product. However, agricultural development has been based on subsidies and incentives to increase production without agroecologic limitations and considerations and has resulted to a great extent in degradation of land and loss of forest (Fournier 1991; Gámez 1989; Hartshorn and others 1982).
The urgent need to address the environmental problems became increasingly evident, particularly in the first half of this century. Between 1960 and 1980, the country witnessed the strong emergence of a conservation movement; public, academic, and private sectors gradually became involved in different types of efforts and initiatives to address specific aspects of this crisis (Fournier 1991; Gámez and Ugalde 1988; Hartshorn and others 1982). This coincided with a growing national and international interest in the country's natural history and in preserving its biodiversity (Gómez and Savage 1982). It is notable that it was in the old National School of Agriculture (later, the Agriculture College of the University of Costa Rica) that the roots of Costa Rica's environmental thinking emerged between 1940 and 1950 (Fournier 1991).
The National Forest Service, the National Park Service, and the Wildlife Service were formally established between 1970 and 1980 under the Ministry of Agriculture and provided an adequate legal framework that enabled the creation and management of national parks and other categories of protected areas. The successful development of the National Park Service and the rapid consolidation of the protected areas in the country's institutional framework are historic landmarks in Costa Rica's quest for a harmonious relationship with nature (Gámez and Ugalde 1988; Gómez and Savage 1982).
Although the following years witnessed a substantial increase in the size and number of protected areas and deforestation rates began to decline, the numerous environmental problems steadily intensified, as well as the organizational and financial problems of the government's environmental agencies, and with them public awareness of their implications increased. Costa Rica needed a comprehensive and integrated natural-resource management program.
The first formal effort to address the need for a congruent national policy for natural-resource management appeared in 1974 in the First National Congress of Renewable Natural Resources (Fournier 1991; Universidad de Costa Rica 1974). However, it was not until 1977 that the need for a new development model that would “achieve a greater level of well being for a greater number of Costa Ricans” was formally addressed at the highest political levels in Costa Rica, during the symposium “The Costa Rica of the Year 2000”, convened by the Ministerio de Planificación Nacional y Política Económica (the Ministry of Planning), or MIDEPLAN. Environmental concerns were included as an inherent component of the country's well-being (Ministerio de Cultura Juventud y Deportes y Oficina de Planificación Nacional y Política Económica 1977).
In 1986, the Ministerio de Recursos Naturales, Energía y Minas (Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy, and Mines) or MIRENEM, was established, and the
national parks, forest, and wildlife services were transferred to the new ministry, signaling the top political priority assigned to these activities. MIRENEM rapidly consolidated, meeting the urgent need for a political environmental authority in the country that would integrate conservation efforts and define environmental policy.
Between 1987 and 1989, MIRENEM initiated the first formal national process to formulate a conservation strategy for Costa Rica's sustainable development. The process provided an opportunity to analyze the environmental issues in the broader context of the country's social and economic development. For the first time, biodiversity emerged as a key issue in the new view of sustainable development (MIRENEM 1989).
In 1987, a Biodiversity Office was created in MIRENEM to define “a new strategy and conservation program for Costa Rica's wildlands” (Gámez and others 1993). The new strategy and program began to emerge from a highly participatory analysis that capitalized on the country's environmental concerns and accomplishments and on the nearly two decades of conservation experience.
The historical process summarized here led to important changes in biodiversity-conservation thinking, policy, and accomplishments. To reinforce its role in environmental issues, the ministry assumed new responsibilities; its name was changed to Ministerio del Ambiente y Energía (Ministry of Environment and Energy), or MINAE, and the Sistema Nacional de Areas de Conservación (the National System of Conservation Areas), or SINAC, was legally consolidated (Ley Orgánica de Ambiente 1995).
Although this paper focuses on the roles of SINAC and the Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad (the National Institute of Biodiversity), or INBio, in biodiversity conservation, the contribution of private organizations has been decisive in strengthening Costa Rica's environmental movement. Historically, nongovernment organizations like Fundación de Parques Nacionales, Fundación Neotrópica, the Tropical Science Center, and the Organization for Tropical Studies have played leading roles in supporting the ministry's biodiversity-conservation efforts. Fundación de Parques Nacionales has become a financing entity that has in diverse ways enabled the resources required to buy and administer lands for many conservation areas.
The New Strategy and Organization for Sustainable Biodiversity Development
The new Costa Rican strategy is based on the premise that the best way to conserve biodiversity is to use it sustainably to promote the country's intellectual, spiritual, social, and economic development. The implementation of this strategy requires three overlapping tasks: save large wildlands, determine what biodiversity is found in these wildlands, and use the biodiversity in a sustainable manner (Gámez 1991; Gámez and others 1993; Janzen 1992).
The fulfillment of the first task demanded the reorganization of existing institutions and the emergence of new ones. The national park, forest, and wildlife
services evolved into SINAC (MIRENEM 1992, 1994). The country was divided into 11 geographic sectors that were called conservation areas (SINAC 1997). The definition of the conservation areas represents a first approach to managing entire bioregions or ecosystems at the national level comprising three categories of land use described below. A positive result of the new policies of rational use of the natural resources is the decrease in the average deforestation rate from 40,000 ha/year in 1986 to 8,000 ha/year in 1994 and an increase in the dense forest cover, which until 1984 had been decreasing continuously (MIDEPLAN 1997).
The country is viewed as divided into three major categories of land use: wildlands conserved for their biodiversity, the agro-pastoral-forestry landscape, and the urban landscape. The three categories of land use are expected to provide different types of equally valuable goods and services and to coexist in harmony so that the activities of one do not harm the others (Presidencia de la República 1994).
Costa Rica is saving representative samples of the species and ecosystems present in the country through a system of protected wildlands within the conservation areas. Nearly 24% of the country is protected under different categories of management, and 11.8% is national parks and reserves (579,412 ha). The remaining areas are forest reserves and wildlife refuges under private ownership (Gar´cia 1996). There are nearly 170 private reserves, representing a notable contribution by the private sector to biodiversity conservation and a clear indication of the increasing understanding of wild biodiversity's social and economic values (MIDEPLAN 1997).
The choice of the particular wildlands to protect has, with notable recent exceptions, been based not on scientific ecological considerations, but mostly on a complex combination of economic and political opportunities (García 1996; Janzen 1992). What has been saved probably includes all that could be protected at the time. Most of but not all the species and ecosystems in the country are thus protected. A strategy and action plan that aims to resolve the problem that some species and ecosystems are unprotected (technical proposals for territorial ordering aimed at the conservation of biodiversity known as Proyecto GRUAS) was recently formulated (García 1996).
According to the existing legislation (SINAC 1997 Asamblea Legislativa), SINAC is a decentralized administrative system in which each conservation area groups and manages state-owned protected wildlands and is responsible for the management of forests and wildlife in private wildlands.
The governance of the conservation areas is under reorganization. Community participation is expected to be incorporated in different ways at the local, regional, and national levels. External national and international conservation authorities are being named to serve as advisers to conservation areas (Asamblea Legislativa).
The fulfillment of the second and third tasks, knowing the biodiversity in the wildlands and using the knowledge to promote its nondestructive use, required the creation of a new organization, Institute Nacional de Biodiversidad, or INBio. A major factor in INBio's creation was the urgent need for an organization solely responsible for conducting a national biodiversity inventory of the protected
wildlands, centralizing the resulting information, and promoting sustainable use (Gámez 1991; Gámez and others 1993). The value and importance of inventory activities conducted in Costa Rica for over a century by national and international scientific organizations and individuals were recognized. Nevertheless, this approach presented the practical problem of scattered biological specimens and information, as well as diverse and discontinuous inventory approaches, which together made the integration and management of the information difficult. For strategic reasons, INBio was established as a private, public-interest, nonprofit organization. Conceptually, INBio offers an innovative form of direct participation of the civil society in biodiversity conservation and management in direct collaboration and coordination with the government. SINAC and INBio work in close partnership in a strategic alliance supported by a periodically updated legal collaborative agreement that stipulates the rules and regulations that guide the partners' activities (Sittenfeld and Gámez 1993). Both organizations have assumed the leadership and responsibility for implementing the sustainable-biodiversity-development initiative described in this paper. Developing the biodiversity resource base is an ambitious and complex task that no institution can possibly attain by itself. It demands the establishment of strategic alliances and partnerships with widely different sectors of society, nationally and internationally, as an inherent component of any socially sustainable scheme. That means interactive work among, for example, the scientific-academic, economic, industrial, political, agricultural, educational, tourist, conservationist, mass-media communication, urban, and rural sectors. Partnerships and alliances for the ulterior purpose of biodiversity conservation into perpetuity demand, in many cases, drastically changed views, attitudes, and traditions that are ingrained in the core activities of many sectors of society, including the scientific and academic sectors.
The direct involvement of all sectors of society in the implementation of the sustainable-biodiversity-development initiative is of paramount strategic importance. All sectors must perceive and play a direct role and be actors rather than spectators. For example, entities that traditionally have concentrated the decision-making power must delegate authority and responsibility, and nongovernment organizations must share roles historically played by government agencies.
INBio's parataxonomists program is a good and successful example of the rural sector's direct involvement in a scientific activity previously considered almost exclusively pertinent to the scientific-academic sector. It has succeeded, among other reasons, because of the acceptance by the scientific sector of this mutually beneficial partnership (Janzen 1992; Reid and others 1993).
The sustainability paradigm must also be applied to the institutions responsible for conducting the sustainable-biodiversity-development process, which demands strong and viable organizations that are capable of dealing with complex problems. That means implementing organizational development schemes that define and follow the institutional mission, guide strategic planning and reengineering processes, and seek financial security.
Both SINAC and INBio are addressing those issues, SINAC in the context of a government entity when the government is down-sizing and budgets are being drastically reduced, and INBio as a nongovernment organization dependent
entirely on its own capabilities to conceive and implement initiatives and raise and generate necessary funds.
Since its inception in 1987, SINAC's institutional organization and wildland management have been undergoing a dynamic process of change. SINAC is still far from consolidation and is required to face the challenge of responding to the new conceptual premise of biodiversity conservation through its sustainable use. As a government organization, SINAC has been affected by the problems of inefficiency and inefficacy in public administration common in developing countries. In spite of these internal difficulties and the country's growing environmental problems, SINAC has made substantial advances toward the implementation of the new philosophy and organization. These include a more congruent perspective on and criteria for natural-resource management and conservation, decentralization, and the staff's growing perception of SINAC's role as a public-service organization (SINAC 1997).
SINAC seeks to achieve the final delimitation of the national territory protected for its biodiversity and the integration of the Costa Rican system of wildlands as part of the initiative of a Mesoamerican Biological Corridor (García 1996; Proyecto Corredor Biológico Mesoamericano Informe Técnico Regional, unpublished).
In the quest for a sustainable model of development, the government of Costa Rica established the Sistema Nacional de Desarrollo Sostenible (National System for Sustainable Development), or SINADES, which is headed by a Sustainable Development Council. SINADES integrates different sectors of societyincluding the government, industry, universities, and civil societyand serves as a forum for analysis and discussion. It also responds to the issues of Program 21, Convention on Climate Change, and the convention Biological Diversity that the country has signed and ratified. The Ministry of Planning functions as the executive secretariat of SINADES.
To address specific topics of sustainability, specialized consultative commissions were created. One of these, the Comisión Asesora de Biodiversidad (the Biodiversity Advisory Commission), or COABIO, was responsible for policy and planning issues related to the implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity at the national level (Gámez and Obando 1995). COABIO was composed of 13 experts on the different topics of the convention. It also serves as the technical-scientific advisory body to the government in all international activities of the Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity. With the approval of the new biodiversity law in 1998, COABIO was replaced with the Comisión Nacional para la Gestión de la Biodiversidad (National Commission for Biodiversity Management) CONAGEBIO.
COABIO, in coordination with SINAC and INBio, assessed the state of knowledge of Costa Rican biodiversity and analyzed the accomplishments and failures of the initiatives historically conducted in conservation by the different national public and private organizations. This study will lead to a reformulation of the country's biodiversity strategy and action plan, highlighting gaps where actions are required or need to be corrected. COABIO also collaborated directly in formulating biodiversity legislation.
Sustainable Biodiversity Development in Practice:
Bringing the Potential Benefits of Biodiversity in the Wildlands to Costa Rican Society
The environmental services supplied by protected areas that were taken for granted for many decades, such as water production and fixation of carbon dioxide, are now starting to be valued and included in national accounts. These services have an important potential to increase the income generated as payments from industry and other sectors of society as the real costs are internalized.
Biodiversity as a source of information also has great potential. INBio was created in 1989 solely for the purpose of conserving Costa Rica's biodiversity into perpetuity. This pilot project responded to the needs to accelerate generation of knowledge of wildland biodiversity and to promote the use of this knowledge as a tool for the country's economic, social, and intellectual development (Gámez 1991, 1996; Gámez and Gauld 1993; Gámez and others 1993; INBio 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997; Janzen 1992; Sittenfeld and Lovejoy 1995).
One of the major steps toward making biodiversity accessible to society has been INBio's design and implementation of an innovative biodiversity-inventory method in collaboration with SINAC. This has produced a high-quality taxonomic reference collection of over 2 million specimens of Costa Rica's arthropods, plants, mollusks, and fungi. The effort has resulted in substantial increases in the knowledge of the country's biodiversity. INBio's inventory through collaborative efforts has described new species, new records of species described elsewhere in the tropics, and new distribution records for known species. The inventory is conducted by teams composed of parataxonomists in the field, technicians, curators, and national and international expert taxonomists. Specimens are collected by parataxonomists in biodiversity stations in the conservation areas, giving the inventory a wide geographic spatial coverage and continuity through time as field collection occurs continuously throughout the year.
The parataxonomists' participation has important social implications in that the inventory is in itself an educational experience and a vehicle for intellectual promotion for an important ruralsector of the population (Gámez 1996; Janzen 1992). Rather than playing marginal roles, rural residents have become main actors in the scientific effort to know the biodiversity of the country. It also means building up local scientific capability and direct sources of knowledge in the conservation areas, which are then available to the schools of neighboring rural communities. Being a parataxonomist also brings in economic benefits to rural families. The economic benefits have multiplying effects in the rural communities, which rapidly perceive the benefits of the activities conducted in the protected wildlands.
The on-the-job training received by national expert curators with basic degrees in biology has enabled the institution to develop and consolidate an increased taxonomic capacity while conducting the inventory process. This has occurred under circumstances in which the country did not have the time or the financial resources available to build up a core group of taxonomic specialists with
higher academic degrees, as would normally be expected in a rich industrial country (Janzen 1992).
The success of INBio's inventory method has been made possible by the active and permanent collaboration of an increased number of expert taxonomists from North America and Europe and their institutions. For the international collaborator, this mutually beneficial initiative translates into training parataxonomists and technicians, tutoring local curators, and identifying properly curated specimens, which are often sorted to the morpho-species level. It also represents an extremely efficient use of visiting taxonomists' time.
Conceptually, the inventory represents the first step in making biodiversity in the wildlands available for social and economic uses. It is a user-oriented inventory guided by objectives not always compatible with interests in scientific academic sectors (Gámez 1996; Janzen 1992), as illustrated in recent publications (Gámez and others 1997; Kaiser 1997).
Biodiversity-information management is the core of INBio. In the inventory process, field samples are accompanied by basic data indicating where, when, by whom, and how the specimens were collected. The raw data are enhanced via a process involving the use of scientific and technological know-how in chemistry, taxonomy, geography, information management, and other fields. The information generated is provided in an appropriate format to economic and intellectual users (GIS, multimedia field guides, books, lectures, tours, and so on); at the same time, it constitutes feedback for the process of generating more information (INBio 1997).
Biodiversity prospecting appears in profile as one of the industrial goals for the 21st century, and biodiversity-rich tropical developing countries, such as Costa Rica, have a unique opportunity to lead the process (Mateo 1996; Sittenfeld and Lovejoy 1995). Even before the emergence of the Convention on Biological Diversity, INBio's policies recognized the need to establish collaborative research agreements and mutually beneficial partnerships with industry in the developed world, as stated by Eisner (1989). Those policies set guidelines for working with commercial partners under mutually agreed-on terms that recognized the country's ownership of the materials, the need for technology transfer and scientific capacity-building, the equitable sharing of benefits derived from the commercialization of products, and the strategic need to contribute from the beginning to SINAC's conservation activities (Janzen and others 1993; Sittenfeld and Gámez 1993).
The above considerations have emerged from internal analysis and discussions with the government, political, and private sectors and in accordance with prevailing advanced thinking and existing legislation. For those reasons, INBio's initiatives have been supported by four consecutive government administrations since 1989. However, INBio underestimated the difficulties of communicating the complex nature of collaborative research agreements in bioprospecting to the general public. That and ideological factors account to a large extent for the concerns that emerged among some national and international groups after the pioneer agreement with Merck and Company in 1991.
In addition to Merck's agreement (Reid and others 1993; Sittenfeld 1995), INBio has entered several collaborative research agreements with corporations in
the pharmaceutical, cosmetic, biotechnological, and agricultural sectors (Mateo 1996; Sittenfeld and Artuso 1995). As a result, the organization has developed substantial knowledge and expertise in the complex array of subjects involved in bioprospecting, including legislation, terms of agreement, business negotiation, science and technology, and information required from inventories.
On the basis of the experience and know-how gained by the organization, INBio will need to increase its scientific and technological capacities substantially to change from a reliable partner capable of providing a wide variety of extracts from diverse organisms to a partner capable of providing chemically defined molecules with known biological activities determined through bioassays. This possibility appears more likely as the institution enters innovative types of partnerships with national universities and other organizations that have stronger scientific and technological capacities.
The future need to focus on problems of national relevance in agriculture, health, and industry is also clear to INBio. These initiatives might not be perceived as having high priority from a financial point of view, but they are certainly important from a local social perspective. INBio's experiences in bioprospecting have served to formulate national policy and legislation, as exemplified by Costa Rica's new biodiversity legislation. This knowledge has also been shared with others in African and Latin American countries through technical workshops.
The experiences of the conservation areas, INBio, and other organizations, point to four major categories of social and intellectual users and uses: ecotourism, management of wildlands, political decision-making, and education.
The tourist boom experienced by Costa Rica is closely linked to the attraction to its natural beauty and protected areas. Tourism is the country's main source of foreign incomegreater than coffee, cattle, and banana production (MIDEPLAN 1997). Current and future trends highlight the need to increase the competitiveness of the country in ecotourism by adding substantially more information value to the activity. Such value should be reflected in the information made available to visitors through guided tours, field guides, CD ROMS, and other forms of interactive presentations and learning experiences. Parks and reserves should logically be equally prepared to deal with increased national and international visits. However, with the benefits of nature-oriented visits come environmental threats. Costa Rica needs to improve its policies and regulations, particularly those related to wildland visitation. To deal properly with those issues, area managers need suitable information and the institutional capacity to introduce it in their management plans. INBio's inventory information emerges as the logical source of information for the conservation areas.
Information for political decision-makers, for both national and local governments, has high priority in Costa Rica. If biodiversity needs to rank high in political agendas, politicians need not only be more educated on the subject, but also have adequate information readily available for sound policy-making. This information should also be available to public constituencies as a whole.
The SINAC-INBio partnership is addressing and beginning to implement initiatives congruent with the preceding notions. As stated in the introductory section of this paper, education in Costa Rica has historically had top national
priority and been a major factor in the country's particular course of development. The solution to the complex problems associated with the conservation of biodiversity into perpetuity and its sound use in the context of the sustainable-human-development initiative depends heavily on a bioliterate population. “Bioliteracy” is evolving as the leading idea in INBio's emerging educational activities, now enthusiastically endorsed by Costa Rica's Ministerio de Educación Publica (Ministry of Public Education, or MEP).
Bioliteracy is defined as an experiential process that guides a person to understand biodiversity and to adopt a principle of respect for life in all forms. This basic understanding fosters changes in behavior that enable harmonious relations with nature to achieve sustainable human development (INBio 1996). Bioliteracy is equated to literacy in its conventional meaning and so must be part of the basic educational process that allows a person to read and write, add and subtract, and, in this case, learn the basics of nature's language. The bioliteracy initiative seeks the consolidation of moral values and the development of new attitudes toward nature, in the sense formulated by Wilson (1992). The development of the proper method for inculcating bioliteracy is part of a pilot project conducted jointly by INBio and two rural public schools under MEP's supervision.
The experimental activities include workshops, field trips, and interactive learning with computer aids. INBio is building on several national experiences, such as the National Computers in Education Program, a joint initiative of the Omar Dengo Foundation and the Ministry of Education; the Biological Education Program of the Guanacaste Conservation Area; and the methodological know-how of the parataxonomists program.
This new environmental ethic is a fundamental pillar of a sustainable society and a sustainable world. Bioliteracy addresses the complex problems of valuation of biodiversity and its key role in sustainability.
What Costa Rica has done in its quest for a sustainable-human-development scheme is due largely to the prolonged investment in peace and development of human capabilities. The integration of the environment variable, represented by its rich biodiversity, is congruent with the country's values and expectations. Intellectual and economic international collaboration has been fundamental in complementing the country's efforts in its quest. Costa Rica's experience constitutes a pilot project for many other tropical developing countries. Furthermore, the Central American region can benefit from the information and knowledge generated by the Costa Rican experience. It might also be a viable example of compliance with the terms of the Convention on Biological Diversity.
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The National Biodiversity Information System of Mexico
Despite its novelty and sheer scope, the concept of biodiversity has already been used as a basis of multilateral treaties, global funds, national strategies, and many other political and scientific initiatives. Foremost among the actions that countries are expected to undertake to preserve biodiversity is the creation of inventories (Reid and others 1992; SA2000 1994) and information systems (Olivieri and others 1995; United Nations Environmental Programme, UNEP; WCMC 1996; http://www.unchs.unon.org) to organize the huge body of biodiversity data already in existence. Without powerful informational tools, the task of protecting, managing, and using biodiversity at national levels is impossible. Many peasant and indigenous cultures manage their biological resources successfully with nonmodern information tools (Berlin and others 1973; Haverkort and Millar 1994), but the increase in the temporal, spatial, and taxonomic scales implied by the full concept of biodiversity leads us to the use of scientific, modern tools for the knowledge and use of biodiversity.
In March 1992, the Mexican government created a national commission, (Comision Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad [CONABIO] 1992, http://www.conabio.gob.mx), with the task of coordinating the national biodiversity inventory and the associated databases and information systems. In this presentation, we outline its conceptual framework and current status, focusing on the role of the users and providers of the data. Mexico's National Biodiversity Information System is not yet finished in a strict sense, but many of its
components are already in operation and providing many services, which we describe here.
A Biodiversity Information System
An information system can be defined as a structured set of processes, personnel, hardware, and software to turn data into usable information (WCMC 1997). That definition forces us to focus on a number of issues. First, data are provided by channels usually under the control of people. In the biodiversity field, the people are the geographers, taxonomists, ecologists, geneticists, foresters, traditional physicians, wholesalers in natural products, and so on, that generate raw or aggregated data about any of the levels of biodiversity. A biodiversity information system (BIS) must have clearly defined and operative relations with the providers of the data.
Second, what “information” means is determined by a set of potential or actual users. For example, the list of the Latin binomials of medicinal plants in a given municipality (or region) for which a national market exists might be useless to inhabitants who lack scientific training, whereas the same data presented in the form of a guide with common regional names and illustrations might be highly informative to them. Similarly, to a national-level decision-maker, a map of endemic species richness might be much more useful than an equation fitted to the raw data, which might be packed with information for a macroecologist; and the raw data themselves could be useful to a taxonomist. The output of a BIS should be defined in close contact with the main users of the system.
Third, the technical specifications of a BIS are likely to be exacting and difficult. Because of its multiscale features, data will appear in a number of formats, from those of geographical information systems (GISs) to text files, images, taxonomic datasets, genomic information files, and so on. Also, some categories of data are large. For example, the Digital Elevation Model of Mexico at 1:250,000 is almost 500 megabytes (Mb). Some curatorial databases are also of significant size. Two examples of CONABIO illustrate this: a database with 403,507 records of specimens of vascular plants with 26 fields from 85 projects is 111 Mb and the bird database with 250,283 records of specimens and 164 fields is 88 Mb. The structure of a BIS should respond to the complexity and magnitude of the problem at hand.
Many BISs are already in operation (WCMC 1996). Among the better known are the Nature Conservancy Heritage Program (Jenkins 1988; http://www.tnc.org/), the World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC, http://www.wcmc.org.uk/), the Australian government's Environmental Resources Information Network (ERIN, http://kaos.erin.gov.au/erin.html), and the Costa Rican Institute Nacional de Biodiversidad (InBio) system (http://www.inbio.ac.cr/). One of the main criteria for characterizing a BIS is whether it is based on raw, “atomic data” or on interpreted information. For example, the set of locations where a species has been recorded is less interpreted than a researcher's rendering of the area of distribution of the species. BISs that are explicitly based on atomic data are the
Australian ERIN (Chapman and Busby 1994) and Costa Rica's InBio. The system being developed in CONABIO belongs to this class.
The National Biodiversity Information System of Mexico
The main task given to CONABIO by the presidential act that created it was to coordinate the inventory of Mexican biodiversity and to develop and maintain the information system for it. CONABIO started by holding workshops with potential users and providers of the information. Such consultations have been maintained, formally or informally, to the present. We also reviewed a number of existing BISs.
Most of the needs of users were related to variations on the symmetrical themes of “What entities are present here?” and “What exists and where?” In those two questions, “entities” and “what” can mean a species, a higher-level taxon, or an attribute of them, such as “mammals,” “federally listed butterflies,” “medicinal plants,” or “migratory birds.” “Where” and “here” refer to arbitrary polygons and regions naturally or politically defined, such as a given ecoregion, a state, a municipality, or a protected area. Those questions call for simple “distributional” information. For example,
• What endangered species exist in a state, municipality, protected area, or ecoregion?
• What are the holdings of particular taxa in particular museums or collections (generally speaking, curatorial data for taxonomic groups present in Mexico)?
• What tree species in a given ecoregion are present in one of the major army nurseries?
• What butterfly and bird species are present in a municipal natural park?
• In what region(s) can a given species produced in the army nurseries be planted?
• In what region(s) is there a high likelihood of the presence of some endangered (or otherwise defined) species?
• What municipalities cover a given ecoregion?
A second class of information is not distributional but is associated with particular taxa. Examples of this more complex, “verbal” information are
• information on production technology for particular species (mainly useful tree species);
• chemical or clinical data on medicinal plants;
• indigenous knowledge about species;
• toxicological and first-help data on poisonous species;
• markets (buyers, certifiers, and exporters) for useful species, such as nontimber forest products;
• demographic or genetic data on particular species or groups, such as whales, cacti, or other “charismatic” taxa;
• traffic data on species regulated under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES);
• images, pictures, illustrations, recordings, and multimedia data related to conspicuous species; and
• general information about protected areas, including images and tourist data.
A third class of information has a temporal component. It is related to trends in the sizes of regions or populations. Obvious examples are
• rates of change of particular types of vegetation into other types (such as in deforestation) and
• changes in the sizes of populations of particular species.
The provenances, updating regimes, quality, and structure of the data required to fulfill the needs described above are highly heterogeneous. A BIS capable of responding to such a set of demands probably does not exist, although many existing systems are quite capable of answering questions on some levels in the biodiversity scale. Some systems are based entirely on bibliographic information, such as the Indian Indira Gandhi Conservation Monitoring Centre (http://www.wcmc.org.uk/igcmc/) and Napralert at the University of Illinois (Farnsworth 1988); metadata systems, such as the National Biodiversity Information Infrastructure of the Department of the Interior in the United States (http://www.nbs.gov/); mixed systems, such as The Nature Conservancy in the United States and several Latin American countries (Jenkins 1988; http://www.tnc.org/); systems of state scope, such as the Gap Analysis Program (GAP, http://www.gap.uidaho.edu/gap/); systems oriented wholly to taxonomic information, such as the Expert Center for Taxonomic Identification (ETI, http://turboguide.com/data2/cdprod1/doc/cdrom.frame/002/607.pub.Expert.Centre.for.Taxonomic.Identification.ETI.html) and the PLANTS National Database (http://plants.usda.gov/plants/); and at least one system with a world scope, WCMC (http://www.wcmc.org.uk/). A scheme of a hypothetical, ideal BIS capable of answering all types of biodiversity questions is depicted in figure 1.
The hypothetical scheme that appears in figure 1 has a realistic interpretation. The core element is the data associated with the specimenthe atomic data referred to before. Particularly important from the perspective of a BIS are the georeference and taxoreference associated with a specimen (Colwell 1996). The georeference is the data that specify the locality where the specimen was collected. It is subject to a variety of errors and imprecision. Without resorting to modern geographic positioning system (GPS) technology, the georeference might be obtained to a precision of a few kilometers. GPS increases the resolution to a few hundred meters or better. The georeference expressed in coordinates provides the most flexible link to information that is spatially structured.
The taxoreference is the expression of a hypothesis on the current position of a specimen within the system of biological taxonomy (Bisby 1995). Besides being hypothetical, the taxoreference is also subject to errors and imprecision. Therefore, this taxonomic information must be updated and modified periodically by specialists. The scientific names are the essential language to communicate about biodiversity (May 1995; Patrick 1996; Thompson 1996), and the taxoreference is
the link to the world of bibliographic data, legislation, markets, population information, and so on.
Taken together, the georeference and the taxoreference provide the links between sets of data that have a geographical structure and sets that are normally associated with a Latin binomial. From the perspective of a national BIS, the information on the millions of specimens in herbariums, museums, and scientific collections constitutes the backbone that allows movement along the many levels in the structure of biodiversity (Soberón and others 1996). That is why the atomic data on a specimen are so powerful and why CONABIO has since its creation been working on assembling the specimen-data backbone.
Specimen Information on Mexican Species.
The biological specimens that have been collected in Mexico are deposited in 190 Mexican institutional collections and in other countries. According to an inventory of the taxonomic activities that CONABIO organized in 1996, there are about 10 million holdings in Mexican collections, in different stages of curation and data capture; the sizes and geographical distributions of the collections in Mexico are uneven. Depending on the taxonomic group, the proportions of specimens held in Mexican and foreign institutions vary. Some collections of Mexican specimens in foreign institutions are very important. For example, the Birds Database (Peterson and others 1997), which has information on about 300,000 specimens, is 80% foreign in origin, with perhaps a further 10% of Mexican
collections still to be included. Foremost among the countries with holdings of Mexican specimens are the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom; several European countries also have important collections in some taxa.
CONABIO's botanical databases, in contrast, are being compiled mainly in two Mexican collections, principally in the National Herbarium of the Instituto de Biologia, UNAM (MEXU, IBUNAM), and the Herbarium of the Escuela Nacional de Ciencias Biológicas of the National Polytechnic Institute (ENCB, IPN). Those two collections contain 1.5–2.0 million specimens.
The task of computerizing and georeferencing the data in the collections is significant. Since its creation, CONABIO has obtained about 230 databases, which contain data on more than 4,250,000 specimens of plants and animals.
The cost of obtaining specimen information is roughly constant per specimen, so computerizing large holdings is much more cost-efficient than small collections.
The information on vertebrates is extensive and probably covers most of the world collections of specimens that have been collected in Mexico. Despite this, large gaps and aggregation of collection sites along roads are still present (figure 2). This is important in countries with a large spatial turn component of diversity that requires extensive sampling over most of the country (Sarukhán and others 1996).
Major botanical collections have been more difficult to computerize, and it was only in 1996 that the ENCB herbarium began the task. IBUNAM has partial computerization of some taxonomic groups or regions. Medium-size herbariums like the Instituto de Ecologia of Xalapa (XAL, around 250,000 specimens) and the small herbariums of the Asociacion Mexicana de Orquideología (AMO, around 110,000 specimens) and Centro de Investigaciones Cientificas de Yucatán (CICY, almost 45,000 specimens) are almost totally computerized. XAL and AMO were pioneers in computerizing collections in Mexico. Other collections have been partially computerized, but the addition of data from computerized collections to CONABIO's databases is slowing down because a large proportion of Mexican specimens are still not curated or determined and because a few significant collections both in Mexico and abroad have not started comprehensive computerization of their specimens. When this task is finished, new increases in specimen data will have to come mostly from new explorations.
Information for the specimen databases is obtained from projects undertaken by universities or research groups and is externally peer-reviewed. But an independent process of quality control is required because data can be subject to faulty determination, unstable taxonomy (McNeill 1993), equivocal georeferencing (Chapman and Busby 1994), and other problems (WCMC 1996). It is possible to spot a large number of those by “inconsistency analysis” (Murguía 1996), whereby records are checked for intrarecord consistency, proper spelling and synonymy, taxonomic nestedness, or geographic consistency (Margules and Austin 1995; Margules and Redhead 1995; Stockewell, in Hart 1997).
The coordinator role of CONABIO is important although all the information that has been integrated came from specialists. CONABIO has been responsible for maintaining and updating the data, obtaining authority files, developing inconsistency-spotting routines, and organizing a network for sharing updated data.
The databases that have gone through the full process of data-quality control are included in the large “container” called BIOTICA (http://www.conabio.gob.mx), which has links to the GIS and to bibliographic information. Soon it will be linked to information on markets and legislation.
The data model for BIOTICA was developed in CONABIO with the assistance of a number of users (mainly taxonomists). The increasing number of providers using the same model, already more than 105, is greatly reducing the number of inconsistencies. Some data providers still use their own systems or commercial data managers; their information can be included in BIOTICA, but the number of inconsistencies tends to be larger than when BIOTICA is used.
Uses of the Mexican National Biodiversity Information System
Although the Mexican National Biodiversity Information System is still unfinished as an integrated system, many of its components are fully operational, and it is already providing services. Most services answer requests for information about the distributional questions noted earlier. Every month, around 30 requests are made by telephone, e-mail, or fax or personally. The providers of the data
are informed about who used their information and what for, and the users can ask the providers for more details. (Some information is protected for various reasons.) A single request might require information from up to 20 databases, each the product of years of expert work and sometimes the result of centuries of accumulated institutional efforts.
CONABIO's home page (http://www.conabio.gob.mx) receives an average of 2,000 hits per day. The page is linked to some databases already released, many GIS thematic maps of Mexico, and the results of a number of analyses like a biodiversity priority-setting of Mexico and a guide to species illegally traded through Mexico.
The Future of the Mexican National Biodiversity Information System
User demands require that CONABIO's BIS include information about protected species (including trends in populations) and useful or marketable species and provide a higher level of resolution of cartography, including time series for vegetation cover in some areas. Therefore, the next steps should probably focus on
• higher resolution for priority areas (the priority-regions workshop [http://www.conabio.gob.mx/textos/prior.htm] yielded 155 regions covering about 20% of Mexico as those still promising for conservation efforts; the workshop used 1:4,000,000 cartography and pinpointed areas on which there was a serious lack of information);
• monitoring (this may be done on different scales, the simplest using satellite images to monitor changes in vegetation);
• updating of databases and catalogs;
• completing the computerization of the national collections and promotion of the extensive use of the system as a powerful tool for scientific purposes, management, and communication;
• repatriation of information and strengthening relations with foreign museums to ensure collaboration;
• data on useful species (trees, medicinals, and ornamental, food and nontimber forest products), which are especially important for peasant communities, small ranchers and farmers, and national and international biotechnology industries (CONABIO has started a project to create an information system for 600 such species. It will be based on data already obtained for the reforestation program, but it will also include data on uses, production techniques, ecological requirements, images, and so on); and
• a similar effort for 300 protected species to add to the current database on the CITES species.
Perspectives on a Regional Biodiversity Information System
An example of cooperation and information-sharing among neighbor countries was recently initiated with the support of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation of the NAFTA countries. Following the lead of previous efforts developed by Julian Humphrys, formerly of Cornell University, a pilot study was finished in 1997 that was based on data from the Mexican Bird Atlas (300,000
records), the Breeding Bird Survey (160,000 and 100,000 more in collections), and the US Breeding Bird Survey (15,000 records). This pilot example, the North American Biodiversity Information Network (NABIN), demonstrates the feasibility of accessing data distributed in several independent institutions. It is an example of the benefits of sharing information (Peterson and others 1997). One of the goals achieved was the development of a common catalog based on previous efforts (American Ornithological Union, http://www.itis.usda.gov/itis/). Another interesting development was the capacity to do bioclimatic modeling by sending the results of queries to the machine at the San Diego Super Computing Center. NABIN demonstrated the feasibility of creating a large-scale, multicountry distributed BIS. It will open the doors to larger efforts, such as the Inter-American Biodiversity Information Network being discussed by several countries.
We have described an information system based on specimen data and the uses that nonbiologists might have for the information. In Mexico, assembling the data required the participation of hundreds of Mexican taxonomists, ecologists, agronomists, and geneticists. The Mexican Government, through CONABIO, had to support not only the creation of databases, but also a large part of the basic activities of the researchers, such as purchase of cabinets and equipment, visits to foreign institutions, and field trips. Maintaining the information system will require continued support for the creators and maintainers of the information. The cost, although great for the country, has remained moderate relative to the large increase in the value of the information in the collections, which is now available and being used by an unprecedented number of people.
The specimen data are the core of a multiscale BIS. Despite the enormous holdings of systematic institutions all over the world, large gaps in our knowledge about the biota of the planet remain. Therefore, we will need more funds and concentrated efforts to computerize existing collections and increase the pace of exploration (SA2000 1994). The example of CONABIO shows that the task is feasible and should be tackled on a global basis.
We are grateful to the many people at CONABIO who worked to make this presentation possible. We thank especially Raul Jimenez, CONABIO's director of systems, for the GAP analysis; Hesiquio Benitez, subdirector of external services; Carlos Alvarez and all the personnel in the Biotic Inventories Area who worked on the GIS. We are also very grateful to the providers of the data we have presented here. Their collective effort is what makes biodiversity information systems possible.
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Community Involvement and Sustainability:
The Malpai Borderlands Effort
The Malpai Borderlands Group is a grassroots, landowner-driven organization that is attempting to implement ecosystem management on nearly one million acres of unfragmented landscape in southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico along 70 miles of the Mexican border. The elevation of the area ranges from about 4,500 to 8,500 feet. The San Bernardino and Animas valleys, along with the Peloncillo and Animas mountain ranges, lie within the boundaries of the Malpai Borderlands. Annual precipitation here averages 12–20 in. Put succinctly, it is high and dry. Nonetheless, this area of remarkable biological diversity is home to numerous wildlife species. Perhaps most remarkable is that fewer than 100 people live in a region that is half the size of Rhode Island. One observer called it a “working wilderness”.
The Malpai Borderlands is cattle ranching country, and ranching has kept this country open for the last century. In the Southwest, ranching depends on the existence of large amounts of open-space landscape. Many of the resident families are descended from the homesteaders who established ranches here around the turn of the 20th century. The diversity of land ownership is nearly as great as that of the country itself: 53% is privately owned, and 47% is owned by the federal or state government. The 320,000-acre Gray Ranch (which is predominantly private land) skews the percentage of total private land in the Malpai Borderlands. The other, smaller ranches that make up the remainder of the area range between 15,000 and 40,000 acres; most contain more than 50% government-owned land, which is leased for grazing, and, when combined with the private lands, make economic units. The intermingled character of the ownership
guarantees that government policies regulating the use of state and federally owned land will determine the fate of the private land. In turn, the fate of the private land, which generally contains the most reliable sources of water and other advantages (this was, after all, the land picked by the homesteaders as the best available), will determine the open-space future of the surrounding and intermingled government land.
In the fall of 1991, a small group of ranchers in the Malpai Borderlands met with a group of individuals from the environmental community at the headquarters of a ranch owned by the Glenn family, known as the Malpai Ranch. These ranchers were concerned about the future of the big open landscape that is their homeland and wanted to get together with some of the critics of livestock-grazing in the West to see whether they shared any concerns and, perhaps, could find some common ground. This group, calling itself the “Malpai Group,” continued to meet at different ranch homes over a 2-year period. They were joined by scientist Raymond Turner, who has spent his life researching and recording changes in the landscape of the Southwest through this century.
Two types of common ground were identified. One was a mutual concern about the possibility of fragmentation of the region. On the fringes of the area, some ranches already had sold to subdivision. Neither ranching nor many wildlife species prosper in an area that is fragmented by development. Second was a concern about the seemingly inexorable encroachment of woody species on the grasslands. The group believed that some human activities contributed to this occurrence; fire suppression was identified as perhaps both the most damaging and the most easily changed. It was generally acknowledged that truly sustainable ranching might be the only hope for holding this landscape together in the future. In the arid West, ranching is the only livelihood based on human adaptation to wild biotic communities.
The group was unsure of its next step but believed that, whatever it would be, it should be driven by good science, contain a strong conservation ethic, be economically feasible, and be initiated and led by the private sector, with the agencies coming in as partners rather than with the private sector as their clients.
The suppression of a small brushfire by a federal agency, over the objection of the ranch manager whose intermingled private land was involved, proved to be the catalyst that took the group to the next step. Another meeting was held at the Malpai Ranch, this time with 30 area landowners in attendance. From that meeting came a request to the agencies to join with the landowners in creating a comprehensive fire-management plan for the region. The landowners even took the first step, presenting the agencies with a map of all the different individual ranches. Each ranch map showed the owner's preference for a response to a firelet it burn, decide at the time, or suppress immediately. The agencies reacted positively to the request. A meeting with representatives of all the land-management agencies followed, and the parties committed to embark on an ecosystem approach to all resource management in the area, including fire. This enthusiasm by the agencies for a privately led initiative surprised many, but with thought, it made sense. It is truly ludicrous to expect government land-management agencies to take the lead, with shrinking budgets, conflicting
internal agendas, outside litigation, and partisan politics pulling them first in one direction, then in another, not to mention the consistently high turnover of personnel in key positions. One highly placed agency official remarked, “We just don't want to get in your way.” In a supporting role, however, the resources and expertise that dedicated agency employees can contribute is invaluable.
While this effort was beginning, the largest ranch in the area was changing hands. The Nature Conservancy (TNC) had bought the Gray Ranch a few years before to keep it from being broken up and possibly subdivided. Now, TNC was preparing to sell the Gray Ranch to a local ranching family. The Hadley family, which had spent 20 years on the Guadalupe Canyon Ranch and had considerable resources beyond its cattle operation, was to be the buyer. The Hadleys created a private organization, the Animas Foundation, with which to purchase and manage the Gray Ranch. Maintaining the vast open-space character of the ranch was important to both the Hadleys and TNC, so part of the purchase agreement included conservation easements, to be held by TNC on the private lands of the Gray Ranch. These easements stipulate that the ranch can never be subdivided.
John Cook, a TNC senior vice president, negotiated the sale. The Hadleys introduced Cook to some of their ranching neighbors, and he became intrigued and inspired by the fledgling Malpai Group. TNC generally was looked on with disfavor by most of the ranchers in the area, primarily because of their displeasure with TNC's practice of buying private land and then reselling it to the federal government. But TNC had done something different with the Gray Ranch, and the ranchers were impressed with John Cook's sincerity and his obvious love of the land. TNC was potentially a formidable partner, bringing to the table good science, a history of good working relations with the agencies, organizational skills and energy, a link to foundations and other donors, and even top-notch legal advice. At the ranchers' request, John Cook and some of his colleagues began working with the group. Some of the ranchers, fearful that TNC would take over the Malpai Group, dropped out at this point. The remainder believed, however, that this was the team to move ahead with. Thus, at the very time TNC was giving up its land holdings in the area, it was asked to remain.
In the spring of 1994, the Malpai Borderlands Group came into being as a nonprofit organization. The group has a nine-member board of directors and counts as its cooperators all landowners in the area who wish to work with the group, all government agencies engaged in any way with the borderlands area, three universities, TNC, and various scientists. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) assigned Ron Bemis, a senior range conservationist, to work with the Malpai Borderlands Group in both states as the only NRCS fieldlevel employee in the nation to have two-state responsibility. Likewise, the US Department of Agriculture Forest Service assigned its senior range conservationist for the Coronado Forest, Larry Allen, to work with the group. In addition, two districts of the Bureau of Land Management work closely with the Malpai Borderlands Group. In fact, the voluntary commitment of all agencies to work together with this landowner-driven group toward mutual goals has been one of the hallmarks of our effort.
Early on, the Malpai Borderlands Group formulated the following goal statement: “Our goal is to restore and maintain the natural processes that create and protect a healthy, unfragmented landscape to support a diverse, flourishing community of human, plant, and animal life in our Borderlands Region. Together, we will accomplish this by working to encourage profitable ranching and other traditional livelihoods which will sustain the open-space nature of our lands for generations to come.” Everything done by the group must be consistent with these stated goals. Actions taken so far have resulted in better communication between landowners, between landowners and the agencies, and even between agencies.
Part of the group's success has come from its insistence on involving the best available science in whatever it does. The link with science had its start with Ray Turner and his colleagues at the Desert Laboratory in Tucson. The science link expanded when TNC became involved with the group and then was boosted again when the Forest Service's Rocky Mountain Research Station obtained a large grant to work in the area.
The Malpai Borderlands Group has formed a science advisory committee that reviews and oversees the various research projects going on in the region and includes such researchers as James Brown, of the University of New Mexico. The immediate past president of the Ecological Society of America, Dr. Brown has maintained a long-term project in an adjacent valley, studying, among other things, the individual effects of various birds and mammals on the area's landscape. The committee recently helped establish a standardized range-monitoring protocol for use by the group's cooperators.
Among the various research projects is a rehabilitative effort set up by the Forest Research Station, the NRCS, and a private landowner on 150 acres of veryeroded land adjacent to a creek. The presence of significant archaeological artifacts on the site has prevented the use of mechanical means to address the erosion problem. The research station funded a survey by the University of Oklahoma, which found evidence on the site of a history of fairly intensive human activity dating back to AD 1000. Without the use of mechanized equipment, and not wishing to introduce exotic grass species, the landowner was stymied about how to rehabilitate and protect the site. Native grass seed is nearly 20 times more expensive than seed of adapted exotics, and it often does not pioneer well. The decision was made to use the landowner's cattle herd to affect the erosion site intensively by feeding native grass hay, raised at the NRCS Plant Materials Center, to the cattle at the site for 3 days, after which the site would be fenced off and rested for an as-yet-undetermined period to monitor the results. This project is just one example of how cooperation has allowed for an action that the landowners, researchers, agency, or university would have been unable to do alone.
Another example has occurred on a neighboring ranch, where the Magoffin family became concerned for the welfare of an amphibian, the Chiricahuan leopard frog, which is listed as threatened. During a recent drought, the water source that was habitat for the frogs on the ranch began drying up. The Magoffins began hauling water to the frogs as a stopgap and also began consulting with herpetologist Cecil Schwalbe, of the University of Arizona, about how best to protect the frog in the future. According to Dr. Schwalbe, the biggest threat to the
leopard frog is predation by introduced species, such as bullfrogs, that live in aquifers and waters on public lands. He believes that the best chance in the future for the leopard frogs is in isolated sources of water on private land, such as the Magoffins' ranch. Working together, the Magoffins, Dr. Schwalbe, the Arizona Game and Fish Department, the NRCS, and the Malpai Borderlands Group designed, funded, and created a permanent water source at the site of the frogs' jeopardized habitat and at one other site on the ranch where they are known to exist on the ranch. These waters were designed so that they also could be used in the ranch operation, making this a win for all concerned. A high-school biology class in nearby Douglas, Arizona, has collected tadpoles from the Magoffin sites and is raising them with the idea of distributing them to other isolated waters on private land in the region; the hope is that this program will obviate the eventual listing of this species as endangered.
In March 1996, Warner Glenn, owner of the Malpai Ranch, encountered a jaguar in the Peloncillo Mountains. Armed with a pistol, he shot several times with a camera instead. As the big cat was leaving his sight, he realized that he faced a dilemma. The jaguar was proposed for listing as endangered in the United States. If he went public with his story and his photographs of the jaguar, the resulting attention might lead to the designation of the area in the future as critical habitat, a designation that could affect the two activities on which his livelihood depends, hunting with dogs and grazing cattle. After a lifetime of hunting mountain lions, he felt a kinship with the big cats and a fascination with the jaguar as well as a concern for its future. The deciding factor was Warner Glenn's faith in the ability of the Malpai Borderlands Group to make it turn out right.
After a meeting with the appropriate agencies, the Malpai Borderlands Group became active with a coalition of other organizations and individuals in drawing up a conservation agreement for the jaguar in Arizona and New Mexico. Officially sponsored by the game and fish departments of both states, the agreement was attacked by activists as simply a ruse designed to subvert listing the jaguar as endangered. Despite this, although the jaguar is now listed, the conservation agreement and the working group that drew it up live on.
At the invitation of the Malpai Borderlands Group, world-renowned big-cat researcher Alan Rabinowitz visited to survey the site of the jaguar encounter, as well as the corridor that runs from the Peloncillos to the Sierra Madres in Mexico. Rabinowitz's opinion is that the Peloncillos and the neighboring Sierra San Luis are not true habitat for the jaguar. The true habitat lies to the south, which is where resources and efforts should be directed (Rabinowitz 1997). He did, however, help Warner Glenn set up some trip cameras in an effort to record any further visits by jaguars.
The Malpai Borderlands Group also met with representatives of an activist organization well known for suing the government for species listings and critical-habitat designations. While professing to have no current interest in pursuing critical-habitat designation in the United States for the jaguar, the activists vowed that they would pursue endangered-species listing for the leopard frog, regardless of the success of the group's efforts to restore the population, which has dampened that effort somewhat.
The most successful, yet most frustrating, type of work for the Malpai Borderlands Group has concerned the use of fire. Tree-ring studies by Tom Swetnam and subsoil studies by Owen Davis, both with the University of Arizona, yielded evidence that fire historically affected nearly all sites in the Malpai Borderlands at least once a decade (Swetnam and Baisin 1995). Today, this area may be one of very few in this country where a large-scale attempt could be made to replicate that frequency of fire. In fact, during the last 4 years, because of the relationships developed by the Malpai Borderlands Group between the neighbors, the agencies, and the rural fire departments, more naturally ignited fires have been allowed to burn. About 120,000 acres have been affected, including two prescribed burns. One advantage of prescribed burning is that it permits studies to be done before and after. For both burns, various studies are looking at the effects on different plant and animal species. These fires were ignited during the normal pre-monsoon fire season, when lightning strikes often occur, mimicking natural fire as nearly as possible. All the fires, natural and prescribed, have tended to leave behind a burned and unburned mosaic pattern, allowing for side-by-side comparison.
The first prescribed burn presented several political challenges. The targeted area lay in two states and involved coordination with six agencies in both states. In addition, a wilderness-study area was involved, and because of the international boundary, Mexico needed to be consulted. With a Herculean effort by everyone involved, the planning was actually completed in 8 months and the burn itself was quite successful.
Although the second burn did not involve anywhere near the jurisdictional difficulties of the first, the attempt nearly ran aground when ecosystem management came into conflict with single-species management. The two ranchers involved voluntarily withheld grazing from their forest allotments to build the fine-fuel load high enough to affect the woody species, but the consultation under section 7 of the Endangered Species Act between the Forest Service and the Fish and Wild-life Service over the possible effect of fire on three species listed as endangered dragged on for 2 years. Eventually, the disagreements between biologists in the two agencies over the possible effects on one species, the desert-blooming agave, became so heated that the Malpai Borderlands Group requested that Jamie Clark, national head of ecological services for the Fish and Wildlife Service (now its director), visit the site to help resolve the debate. Negotiation led to the establishment of plots for before-and-after studies to be funded by the Forest Research Station. This avoided any further stalemate and the fire was ignited in the premonsoon period.
This experience taught us several things, principally that the site-by-site approach is just too costly. The planning for this burn cost about $20 per acre for the Forest Service alone, but it cost only $3 per acre to actually perform the burn. Because the cost of consultations was the primary factor in driving up the cost of planning, it became clear that an alternative approach to prescribed burning was desirable. What has emerged is a comprehensive programmatic approach that will identify and attempt to resolve as many concerns as possible for the entire area before planning begins for a specific burn. We hope that this can be accomplished
in a 2-year period, after which the process of burning on specific sites will be expedited and require a minimal number of consultations. At this point, while awaiting the data from current and future studies, the Malpai Borderlands Group feels positive about the results of the burns, both natural and prescribed. Early results show a considerable immediate effect on the woody species and the rejuvenation of the grasses, resulting in more ground cover.
Unfortunately, not everyone has waited for the data. The herpetologist who led a before-burn study on the endangered ridgenose rattlesnake has issued a report recommending critical-habitat designation for the snake and recommending against future prescribed burning in the Peloncillo Mountains at elevations above 5,000 ft. The report also recommends that livestock-grazing on all Forest Service allotments that contain ridgenose rattlesnake habitat be restricted to midwinter. Even before this report had been reviewed by those for whom it was intended, and well before the Malpai Borderlands Group became aware of it, these recommendations were incorporated by a US Fish and Wildlife Service herpetologist into a court-ordered biological opinion on grazing for two Bureau of Land Management districts that cover nearly one-third of the land area of Arizona. Even though the report itself (which is final but not published yet ) states that the effects of grazing on the habitat of the ridgenose rattlesnake are unknown, it recommends midwinter grazing only. The snake-survey team shut down its study within a week after the burn, well before the monsoon rains and the resulting revegetation of the site began, permitting no opportunity to study even the shortterm effects of the fire on the habitat, but the report still recommends no burning above 5,000 feet. Only one of 13 collared snakes died in the fire, and it was not a ridgenose rattlesnake. The survey team itself was responsible for the loss of two snakes during the course of its research.
Given the facts, what is the basis for the no-burn recommendation? Why is this recommendation part of a biological opinion on grazing? We believe that with the force of the Endangered Species Act behind them, some individuals within the Fish and Wildlife Service have been abusing the power of the act increasingly in recent years to force their will, with little regard for science. For instance, peer review is not required for opinions expressed in section 7 consultations. Under pressure from the courts, biological opinions are being thrown together with the flimsiest of scientific underpinnings. We believe that these opinions are destructive and counterproductive to collaborative efforts like ours. The opinion on the ridgenose rattlesnake effectively prevents any prescribed burning in the Peloncillo mountains, and its grazing recommendations potentially could affect some ranching operations to the point of jeopardizing their continuation as ranches, possibly putting thousands of acres at risk for development. This “shoot-from-the-hip science” hardly encourages private landowners to want researchers to come onto their ranches. The trust and openness that have characterized the efforts of the Malpai Borderlands Group to this point are threatened, encouraging nonparticipating landowners to remain nonparticipating. The few who believe that the safest policy toward endangered species is to “shoot, shovel, and shut up” will stay convinced of the certitude of their position, and they may even gain some converts. In such an atmosphere of mistrust, for instance, it will be difficult for land-
owners to have the confidence to place leopard frogs willingly on their private land. Landowners must know that the Endangered Species Act will not be used retroactively to restrict the activities on which their livelihood depends.
We believe that rigid single-species management in our biologically diverse world is wrong. Whether the species is a ridgenose rattlesnake, a willow flycatcher, or a beef cow, management for one species alone is narrow-minded, short-sighted, ineffective, and, in fact, harmful.
Will this unfortunate action ultimately blow apart the efforts in the Malpai Borderlands? We hope not. The Malpai Borderlands Group is positioned uniquely to bring to bear the scientific rigor and influence necessary to address this abuse. If the principals are willing to come together to talk and to work for as long as it takes for all concerns to be addressed fairly, the confidence and trust that must exist for a collaborative effort to work can return.
From Montana to Hawaii to Brazil, the “radical-center” approach of the Malpai Borderlands Group is regarded by many as the bestand maybe the onlyhope for our remaining wildlands. However, reasonable people in both the public and private sectors must be allowed to work together in pursuit of creative solutions to issues about the land as they occur. If they are not allowed this flexibility, all the government policies and global treaties that can be dreamed up will amount to only so much hot air and wasted paper and ink.
Writing in support of the approach of the Malpai Borderlands Group, James Brown stated, “Ranchers, conservationists, government-agency employees, research scientists, and the American public all have much to lose if the present climate of distrust, disagreement, and interference is perpetuated. All have much to gain through interaction, cooperation, and collaboration” (Brown and McDonald 1995). Which will be our legacy? The generations to come will be the biggest losers or winners.
Brown JH, McDonald W. 1995. Livestock grazing and conservation on southwestern rangelands. Cons Biol 9:1646.
Rabinowitz A. 1997. The status of jaguars in the United States: trip report. New York NY: Wildlife Conservation Society, Bronx Zoo. p 3–5.
Swetnam TW, Baisin CH. 1995. Historical fire occurrence in remote mountains of southwestern NM and northern Mexico. Gen Tech Rept INT-320. Ogden UT: USDA Forest Service Intermountain Research Station. p 153–6.
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