The CBD-COP13 Forum started on December 1st in Cancun with 450 registered participants.
The IAI has a mandate for promoting research and capacity building for informed decision-making on global change. Global change is a complex combination of climate changes, environmental changes, human activities and the mutual effects of each of these components on each other. The mission of the IAI, therefore, includes climate science but also the sciences of ecosystems, biodiversity, human societies and development.
As part of this mission, the IAI participates in the United Nations conventions on climate change (UNFCCC) and biodiversity (CBD). At the UNFCCC conference of the parties in 2014, the IAI made a case for linking the conservation of biodiversity with climate change adaptation and mitigation (details, here). In December 2016, the IAI with several of its scientists co-organized the Third Science for Biodiversity Forum at the CBD conference of the parties in Cancun, Mexico.
The CBD COP
– welcomed the outcomes of the forum and the commitment of the scientific community gathered in Cancun to work in close partnership with decision-makers and other stakeholders to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, in the context of community development and societal well-being.
– invited parties to make use of the Forum outcomes and to support the co-production of knowledge towards the implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and the achievement of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.
– invited the broader scientific community to strengthen efforts to communicate its research results, tools and information to policy-makers, and to fill the knowledge gaps identified at the Forum in partnership with decision-makers and other stakeholders.
What does this mean in the context of the IAI’s future contributions and the capacity of the Americas to successfully navigate the challenges of biodiversity and other changes?
IAI-funded scientists studying and monitoring the dry forests of the Americas report even more alarming rates of deforestation and land cover change than those documented for the more publicized Amazon rain forest. At the same time, their studies show the importance of ecosystem services for the people living in those landscapes. So, the task of conservation is not to preserve pristine ecosystems, but to manage, use and protect inhabited landscapes and ecosystems as productive and resilient reservoirs of functional biodiversity.
Two of the IAI’s projects present at the Forum reported on the close links between ecosystem health and human health, as mediated by vector-borne diseases (Land use, climate and infections in Western Amazonia (CRN 3036) and Effects of anthropogenic habitat perturbation on rodent population dynamics and risk of rodent-borne diseases (CRN 3076)).
It is a common experience that certain areas in a town or a landscape have more insect pests, more mosquitoes than others. Mice, rats and other rodents, too, are more common in some environments than in others. Development, such as the construction of new roads into undeveloped forest areas, introduces changes in landscapes, hydrology and plant cover which in turn affect insect and animal diversity and the ecology of disease vectors. Human wellbeing and health are therefore affected in often unforeseen ways.
The task of global change science is to translate such experiences into sound knowledge that can be used to guide governance decisions and the management of landscapes for the benefit of both natural ecosystems and the people living within them. Specific questions to be answered by research are: “We are building a road through a forest. What are the consequent changes in rodent fauna that we can anticipate? And knowing that rodents may carry infectious pathogens, what are the risks to human health, how do the affected inhabitants perceive those risks, and how can we mitigate them?”
In this way the projects emphasize that the vulnerability of human health must be a key component in biodiversity and ecosystem assessment. Human health and biodiversity are mutually dependent and reinforcing components of socio-ecological systems. IAI research shows that:
– The risk of disease emergence is high in high biodiversity regions that are under land use change pressure.
– Greater diversity of host and vector organisms increases the pathogen pool from which novel pathogens may emerge into humans if humans increase their contact with wildlife, by conducting activities in high risk areas.
– Disease risk depends on the type of human activities (e.g., hunters), cultural background and socio-economic activities. It also varies over time and space.
Biodiversity changes have acquired a global scale and importance similar to that of climate change. And so the Forum intended to bring this issue to the attention of policy-makers and the public. Science should work in partnership with society to ensure the sustainable use of biodiversity, community development and human wellbeing towards a resilient planet by:
– Understanding and monitoring the ways in which biodiversity changes affect human well-being, health and food security in the short- and long-term;
– Recognizing the differences, synergies and trade-offs between the many value systems for biodiversity (economic, ecological, social, cultural, etc.) in society;
– Ensuring policy coherence within and across societal sectors toward the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, such as by planning at the landscape scale.