07 August 2012
Biodiversity Asia 2012: Science, Policy, and Governance - Day 1
The 2nd Asia Regional Conference of the Society for Conservation Biology – Asia Section kicked off today. I can only represent here the bits I attended and / or was part of so bear with some missing parts from this conference in blog posts over the next few days (read - till I keep writing / maintain a semblance of daily reporting)...
Attending a great pre-inauguration workshop on criteria for identifying Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) set the stage of what I am expecting for the rest of the conference. The 3 speakers were Tom Brooks, Diego Juffe and Jagdish Krishnaswamy. The session was chaired by Dr. Vinod Mathur who managed the time and a long and interesting Q & A session - excellent.
Going over the main driver of biodiversity extinctions - habitat loss, the history of taxa specific site identification criteria - BirdLife's Important Bird Areas (IBAs), Important Plant Areas, Prime Butterfly Areas and the Alliance for Zero Extinction as a starting point of information that already exists gave a good idea that KBAs were not set to be the new improved system, but a framework to provide a global standard way to identify critical sites for biodiversity conservation. Add to this irreplaceability of a species, ecosystem or space and vulnerability measurements and you have the crux of the argument for KBAs.
Sure, there are limits to using KBAs as a biodiversity conservation approach - clearly elucidated by Tom in his presentation. Using KBAs as a box to put all biodiversity in and expecting that to work would be disastrous - imagine trying to fit migrations, source and sink locations of a threatened species (and maybe even getting that the wrong way around due to the criteria largely being for a congregation / large abundance - present both at source and sinks ! ), the choices we make using available data vs actual data and the turnaround time updating a large number of local sites may require if the criteria / data change over time...
But my fundamental reservation lies elsewhere with the idea of KBAs and is borne out of advocating for IBAs (successfully in regions with strong legal support or local community buy in, dismal in ignored or prime large development real estate)...
Part of the work undertaken in forming KBA criteria will also evaluate how well we have done for species using protected areas. There are only two ways this study could go (assuming it won't be inconclusive) -
If we've done far worse than we thought we would - then does it make sense to layer another framework over the existing ones that are flawed (in their inherent mechanisms / their implementation)?
If we've done better than we thought we would - how are non official frameworks contributing to this conservation of biodiversity?
I suspect in a country like India, as across much of Asia, hungry for economic growth - integrated planning is far removed from involving corporate sector, government, large development, peoples with even a a passing thought for biodiversity. EIA clearances are formalities and the increasing pressures of large development dwarf the chance for ecologists to make their foot-in-the-door remarks about ecosystem functioning / services and biodiversity value.
It would be very interesting to compare conservation results from places that have afforded frameworks like Key Biodiversity Areas official and legislative importance with places that have spent a bulk of their scientific and policy resources in solely strengthening existing protected areas conservation. That would make clear if we need to invest more in evaluating our present systems and then may be providing an adequate amount of scientific study to solving these roadblocks through good practice and maybe even global standards.
** This part between the morning session and the evening public lecture provided a little rain, a lot of foraging exploration around the conference venue and setting up my poster (more on that later)**
Evening public lecture: A real treat of a talk filled with witty jokes and more importantly the passion to drive home the point of largely how we react as humans / as a society to something as abstract and destructive as global climate destabilization by Dr. David Orr. I particularly loved his analogy of how if a tiger walked on to the inaugural stage we'd get pumped, use our fight vs flight instincts and DO something. But a slide clearly stating that food will get undoubtedly scarce if we allow the next 30 yrs to go by as BAU (business as usual) doesn't bring forth any fidgeting, mad screaming, running out of the doors or pushing someone else into the "tiger's mouth" ! :D