diversitas conference


FINAL PRESS RELEASE
October 16, 2009, 10:31
Filed under: Press releases

EMBARGO: 9.45 a.m. GMT (11.45 a.m. Cape Town), Fri. Oct. 16, 2009

Contacts: Mr. Terry Collins +1-416-538-8712; +1-416-878-8712 (m), tc@tca.tc
Ms. Marina Joubert, +27 83 409 4254, marina@southernscience.co.za

Economist Pavan Sukhdev, other experts and conference officials will take part in a news conference Friday Oct. 16 at 11.45 am local time (GMT + 2 hours), Room 1.93, Cape Town International Convention Centre.
Media wishing to join by teleconference may dial in on +1-303-664-6043, ID 8309014.

What are Coral Reef Services Worth?
$130,000 to $1.2 million / ht / yr: Experts

Economists, Assigning Values to “Ecosystem Services,” Report Staggering Totals and Rates of Return on Investment

600 biodiversity experts from 70 countries issue Cape Town declaration

Risks of Importing Disease Grow with Rising Pet Trade

Experts concluding the global DIVERSITAS biodiversity conference today in Cape Town described preliminary research revealing jaw-dropping dollar values of the “ecosystem services” of biomes like forests and coral reefs – including food, pollution treatment and climate regulation.

Undertaken to help societies make better-informed choices, the economic research shows a single hectare of coral reef, for example, provides annual services to humans valued at US $130,000 on average, rising to as much as $1.2 million.

The work provides insights into the worth of ecosystems in human economic terms, says economist Pavan Sukhdev of UNEP, head of a Cambridge, England-based project called The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB).

Based on analysis of more than 80 coral reef valuation studies, the worth of services per hectare of coral reef breaks down as follows:

* Food, raw materials, ornamental resources: average $1,100 (up to $6,000);
* Climate regulation, moderation of extreme events, waste treatment / water purification, biological control: average $26,000 (up to $35,000);
* Cultural services (eg. recreation / tourism): average $88,700 (up to $1.1 million)
* Maintenance of genetic diversity: average $13,500 (up to $57,000)

Taken together, coral reef services worldwide have an average annual value estimated at $172 billion, says Mr. Sukhdev.

He notes the growing scientific agreement that coral reefs are unlikely to survive if atmospheric carbon dioxide levels exceed 350 parts per million. Negotiators of a new climate change deal in Copenhagen in December, however, “would be proud” to achieve an agreement that limits atmospheric carbon to 450 parts per million, he says, calling that “a death sentence on the world’s coral reefs.”

Halving the destruction of tropical forests, meanwhile, would allow them to continue absorbing roughly 4.8 gigatonnes of carbon per year, slow the rise of atmospheric carbon levels and forestall anticipated climate change damage. Halving deforestation has a net present value estimated at $3.7 trillion, according to research.

The economic choice of turning such forests into timber or clearing them to make way for agriculture is “not very clever,” says Mr. Sukhdev. “Stopping deforestation offers an excellent cost-benefit ratio.”

“Investment in protected areas holds exceptional high returns,” he says. Previous studies have shown that investing $45 billion “could secure nature-based services worth some $4.5 to 5.2 trillion annually.” Among the specific examples cited: planting mangroves along a coastline in Vietnam cost $1.1 million but saved $ 7.3 million annually in dyke maintenance.

Examples of a rate of return on investments in ecosystem restoration:
* Coral reefs: 7%, (with a cost-benefit ratio of 2.8);
* Rivers: 27%, (cost-benefit ratio 15.5);
* Tropical forests: 50% (cost-benefit ratio 37.3);
* Mangroves: 40%, (cost-benefit ratio 26.4);
* Grasslands: 79%, (cost-benefit ratio 75.1).
(see full graph online at: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_OJDD8RZoYCo/StcIYKMgwmI/AAAAAAAABX8/8FvgumI3wgY/s1600-h/TTB+Graph.jpg)

TEEB is a UNEP-led project supported by the European Commission, German Federal Ministry for the Environment, and the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Biodiversity and society: understanding connections, adapting to change.

Over 600 scientists attending the international 2nd Open Science Conference Oct. 13-16 hosted by DIVERSITAS, a Paris-based NGO, issued a concluding statement confirming that, “as we approach the 2010 Year of Biodiversity … the fabric out of which the Earth system is woven is unravelling at an accelerating rate.”

“At the same time, we are discovering ever more about biodiversity and the benefits it provides to people. It is clear that biodiversity loss erodes the integrity of ecosystems and their capacity to adapt in a changing world. It represents a serious risk to human wellbeing and a squandering of current assets and future opportunities.

“The biodiversity scientists gathered here commit themselves to finding practical solutions to this problem. They will do so by: increasing shared knowledge of biodiversity and its functions; helping to develop systems for monitoring the biodiversity of the planet; and being responsive to the knowledge needs of society with clear communication of findings.

“The proposed mechanism for the ongoing evaluation and communication of scientific evidence on these issues is an Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). We call on governments and non-governmental organisations to join us in establishing IPBES as soon as possible. We urge policy-makers to act swiftly and effectively on the already-established and future findings relating to ways of limiting further biodiversity loss and restoring ecosystem services.”

“Meeting current and future human needs must make adequate provision for the complex web of life of which people are an integral part. People everywhere must give effect to their shared desire for a biologically-rich and productive planet through their individual decisions and political voices.”

Growth of global pet trade risks health

Among dozens of conference presentations, US experts warned that the risk of importing diseases is rising in tandem with growth of the multi-billion dollar pet animal trade.

The US alone imports some 200 million such animals annually from 194 countries. Most were captured from the wild and most arrived from Southeast Asia, a hotspot incubator of emerging diseases.

A study lead by Katherine Smith of Brown University found just 13% of animal shipments allowed in were classified by species – most were admitted with vague labels like “live vertebrate” or “fish,” raising concerns about not just disease but potentially introducing invasive species that could harm native ecosystems, wildlife and domestic animals.

She estimated 2,241 non-native species were imported to the U.S. between 2000 and 2006 and says there have been 335 outbreaks of emerging infectious diseases since 1940, 75% of which had animal origins. Among the outbreaks: a 2003 US outbreak of monkeypox traced to African rodents imported for pets, SARS in 2002, West Nile Virus in 1999, smallpox in the 1500s and syphilis in the 1400s.

“The threat to public health is real, as the majority of emerging diseases come from wildlife,” says Dr. Smith, who listed dozens of fevers, encephalitis, Leishmaniasis, and schistosomiasis among the health threats.

Just 100 inspectors at US borders are tasked with inspecting the shipments, she adds. From 2000 through 2006, the U.S. imported more than 1.5 billion live animals, roughly equal to five animals for every citizen.

Pet shops could face tighter restrictions if the controversial Nonnative Wildlife Invasion Prevention Act gets voted into law.

The researchers call for:
• Stricter record keeping to help assess risk on animal imports.
• Third-party surveillance and testing for both known and unknown pathogens at the exportation points in foreign countries.
• Greater education of citizens, importers, veterinarians and pet industry advocates about the dangers of diseases that emerge from wildlife and that can make their way to domesticated animals and humans.
The conference concluded with a major plenary, chaired by leading expert Lijbert Brussaard, of Wageningen University, The Netherlands, on ways to reconcile the competing Millennium Development Goals of protecting biodiversity, reducing world hunger and alleviating poverty.

Among other measures, the experts called for a reduction in the estimated 30 to 40% of food lost through spoilage and waste.

* * * * *

DIVERSITAS (the Latin word for diversity) brings together biological, ecological and social sciences to address key questions that underlie our limited understanding of the current situation.
• How much biodiversity exists and how does its change or loss affect the system as a whole?
• How does biodiversity correspond to the delivery of ecosystem functions and services, and what is the true value of these commodities?
• How can scientific investigation support policy and decision making to encourage more sustainable use of biodiversity?
Armed with a broader, deeper knowledge of biodiversity, we will be better equipped to safeguard the future of Earth’s natural resources.

For more information: http://www.diversitas-osc.org

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CONFERENCE STATEMENT
October 16, 2009, 10:27
Filed under: Conference announcements, Key topics, Press releases

As we approach the 2010 Year of Biodiversity, the DIVERSITAS second Open Science Conference confirms that the fabric out of which the Earth system is woven is unravelling at an accelerating rate. At the same time, we are discovering ever more about biodiversity and the benefits it provides to people. It is clear that biodiversity loss erodes the integrity of ecosystems and their capacity to adapt in a changing world. It represents a serious risk to human wellbeing and a squandering of current assets and future opportunities.

The biodiversity scientists gathered here commit themselves to finding practical solutions to this problem. They will do so by: increasing shared knowledge of biodiversity and its functions; helping to develop systems for monitoring the biodiversity of the planet; and being responsive to the knowledge needs of society with clear communication of findings.

We welcome the proposed mechanism for the ongoing evaluation and communication of scientific evidence on these issues – the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). We call on governments to establish IPBES as soon as possible and we encourage all scientists to lend their full support. We urge policy-makers to act swiftly and effectively on the already-established and future findings relating to ways of limiting further biodiversity loss and restoring ecosystem services.

Meeting current and future human needs must make adequate provision for the complex web of life of which people are an integral part. People everywhere must give effect to their shared desire for a biologically-rich and productive planet through their individual decisions and actions.



Healthy Oceans New Key to Combating Climate Change
October 14, 2009, 18:01
Filed under: Press releases

Healthy Oceans New Key to Combating Climate Change

Seagrasses to Salt Marshes Among the Most Cost Effective Carbon Capture and Storage Systems on the Planet.

But Urgent Action Needed to Maintain and Restore ‘Blue Carbon’ Sinks Warns Three UN Agencies

Cape Town, Nairobi, Rome, Paris, 14 October 2009—A ‘Blue Carbon’ fund able to invest in the maintenance and rehabilitation of key marine ecosystems should be considered by governments keen to combat climate change.
A new Rapid Response Report released today estimates that carbon emissions–equal to half the annual emissions of the global transport sector–are being captured and stored by marine ecosystems such as mangroves, salt marshes and seagrasses.

A combination of reducing deforestation on land, allied to restoring the coverage and health of these marine ecosystems could deliver up to 25% of the emissions reductions needed to avoid ‘dangerous’ climate change.

But the report, produced by three United Nations agencies and leading scientists and launched during National Marine Month in South Africa, warns that far from maintaining and enhancing these natural carbon sinks humanity is damaging and degrading them at an accelerating rate.

It estimates that up to seven percent of these ‘blue carbon sinks’ are being lost annually, or seven times the rate of loss of 50 years ago.

“If more action is not taken to sustain these vital ecosystems, most may be lost within two decades,” says the report Blue Carbon: the Role of Healthy Oceans in Binding Carbon launched by the United Nations Environment Programe (UNEP), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said: “We already know that marine ecosystems are multi-trillion dollar assets linked to sectors such as tourism, coastal defense, fisheries and water purification services—now it is emerging that they are natural allies against climate change.”

“Indeed this report estimates that halting losses and catalyzing the recovery of marine ecosystems might contribute to offsetting up to seven percent of current fossil fuel emissions and at a fraction of the costs of technologies to capture and store carbon at power stations,” he added.

The new report comes less than 60 days before the crucial UN climate change convention meeting in Copenhagen where governments need to Seal the Deal on a comprehensive new agreement.

It is likely that nations will agree to pay developing economies to maintain the ‘green carbon’ in forests under a partnership—Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD).

Mr Steiner added: “The links between deforestation and climate change are firmly on the political radar and there is optimism that REDD will form part of a new global climate partnership, but the role and the opportunity presented by other ecosystems are still overlooked.”

“If the world is to decisively deal with climate change, every source of emissions and every option for reducing these should be scientifically evaluated and brought to the international community’s attention—that should include all the colours of carbon including now blue carbon linked with the seas and oceans.”

Dr. Carlos Duarte, one of the chief scientists of the report based at the Mediterranean Institute of Advanced Studies in Spain, said: “We know that land use change is part of the climate change challenge. Perhaps less well known is that the global loss of what we could call our “blue carbon sinks’, such as mangroves and seagrasses, are actually among the key components of the increase in greenhouse concentrations from all land use changes.”

Christian Nellemann, Editor of the Rapid Response report, said: “There is an urgency to act now to maintain and enhance these carbon sinks – since the 1940s, over 30% of mangroves; close to 25% of salt marshes and over 30% of seagrass meadows have been lost. We are losing these crucial ecosystems much faster than rainforests and at the very time we need them – on current trends they may be all largely lost within a couple of decades.”

“Fishing and aquaculture communities will be heavily impacted by climate change and have a key role to play in maintaining healthy ocean ecosystems in the face of change,” said Ichiro Nomura, Assistant Director-General for Fisheries and Aquaculture at FAO.

“An ecosystem approach to the management of ocean and coastal ecosystems cannot only enhance their natural carbon sink capacity, but also offers a way to safeguard and strengthen food and livelihood security for fisheries-dependent communities,” he added.

Officials with UNESCO also underlined the important role the oceans are already playing in offsetting climate change and its impacts on humanity, but warn that this is having consequences too.

“Because the ocean has already absorbed 82% of the total additional energy accumulated in the planet due to global warming, it is fair to say that the ocean has already spared us from dangerous climate change,” says Patricio Bernal, Assistant Director-General of UNESCO, IOC Executive Secretary. “But each day we are essentially dumping 25 million tons of carbon into the ocean. As a consequence, the ocean is turning more acidic, posing a huge threat to organisms with calcareous structures.”

Luciano Fonseca of UNESCO-IOC explains that the ocean’s absorption of the planet’s excess heat “is like a glass of whisky with ice. As long as the ice is there the whisky stays cool. The energy that is going into the glass, from your hand and room temperature, is working to convert the ice to liquid. As soon as the ice melts the whisky turns warm.”

.
Key Findings from the Rapid Assessment Report

• Of all the biological carbon, or green carbon captured in the world, over half (55%) is captured by marine-living organisms – not on land – hence the new term blue carbon.
• Marine-living organisms range from plankton and bacteria to seagrasses, saltmarsh plants and mangrove forests.
• The ocean’s vegetative habitats, in particular, mangroves, salt marshes and seagrasses, cover less than 1% of the seabed.
• These form the planet’s blue carbon sinks and account for over half of all carbon storage in ocean sediment and perhaps as much as over 70%.
• They comprise only 0.05% of the plant biomass on land, but store a comparable amount of carbon per year, and thus rank among the most intense carbon sinks on the planet.
• Blue carbon sinks and estuaries capture and store between 235-450 Teragrams (Tg C) or 870 to 1,650 million tons of CO2 every year – or the equivalent of up to near half of the emissions from the entire global transport sector which is estimated annually at around 1,000 Tg C, or around 3,700 million tons of CO2, and rising.
• Preventing the further loss and degradation of these ecosystems and catalyzing their recovery can contribute to offsetting 3-7% of current fossil fuel emissions (totaling 7,200 Tg C a year or around 27,000 million tons) of CO2 in two decades – over half of that projected for reducing rainforest deforestation.
• The effect would be equivalent to at least 10% of the reductions needed to keep concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere below 450 ppm needed to keep global warming below two degrees Celsius.
• Combined with action under REDD, halting the degradation and restoring lost marine ecosystems might deliver up to 25% of emission reductions needed to keep global warming below two degrees Celsius.
• Unlike carbon capture and storage on land, where the carbon may be locked away for decades or centuries, that stored in the oceans remains for millennia.

Currently, on average, between 2-7% of our blue carbon sinks are lost annually, a seven-fold increase compared to only half a century ago.

• In parts of southeast Asia losses of mangroves since the 1940s are as high as 90%.
• Large-scale restoration of mangroves has been successfully achieved in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta and salt-marsh restoration in Europe and the United States.

Countries with extensive, shallow coastal areas that could consider enhancing marine carbon sinks include India; many countries in southeast Asia; those on the Black Sea; in West Africa, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, eastern United States and Russia.

Maintaining and Recovering Marine Ecosystems—the Wider Benefits
Coastal waters account for just seven percent of the total area of the ocean. However, the productivity of ecosystems such as coral reefs, and these blue carbon sinks mean that this small area forms the basis of the world’s primary fishing grounds, supplying an estimated 50% of the world’s fisheries.

They provide vital nutrition for close to three billion people, as well as 50% of animal protein and minerals to 400 million people of the least developed countries in the world.

The coastal zones, of which these blue carbon sinks are central for productivity, deliver a wide range of benefits to human society. These include filtering water, reducing effects of coastal pollution, nutrient loading, sedimentation, protecting the coast from erosion and buffering the effects of extreme weather events.

• Coastal ecosystem services have been estimated to be worth over US$25,000 billion annually, ranking among the most economically valuable of all ecosystems.
• Much of the degradation of these ecosystems not only comes from unsustainable natural resource use practices, but also from poor watershed management, poor coastal development practices and poor waste management.
• The protection and restoration of coastal zones, through coordinated integrated management would also have significant and multiple benefits for health, labour productivity and food security of communities in these areas.

Notes to Editors
The report “Blue Carbon – The Role of Healthy Oceans in Binding Carbon” can be accessed at http://www.unep.org or at http://www.grida.no, including high and low resolution graphics for free use in publications.
The report will be released at 10.30 am Oct. 14 at the DIVERSITAS biodiversity science conference, Cape Town Conference Center, South Africa (www.diversitas-osc.org) or http://dev.grida.no/RRAbluecarbon/pdfs/update/
The Blue Carbon report compliments a report launched by UNEP on the occasion of World Environment Day 2009 called The Natural Fix?—The Role of Ecosystems in Climate Mitigation http://www.unep.org/pdf/BioseqRRA_scr.pdf

For more information, please contact
Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson/Head of Media, on Tel +254 20 7623084, Mobile: +254 733 632755, Email: nick.nuttall@unep.org

Catherina (Marina) Joubert, Acting Communications Person for the Diversitas Conference and SOUTHERN SCIENCE, South Africa, Science Communication Editor of SciDev.Net, Tel: +27 83 409 4254, Email: marina@southernscience.co.za

Anne-France White, Associate Information Officer, on Tel: +254 20 762 3088, Mobile: +254 (0)728 600 494, Email: anne-france.white@unep.org



World won’t meet 2010 Biodiversty targets
October 11, 2009, 23:56
Filed under: Biodiversity loss, Press releases

NEWS RELEASE; EMBARGO: 6 p.m. GMT, Sun. Oct. 11, 2009

Contacts: Mr. Terry Collins +1-416-538-8712; +1-416-878-8712 (m), tc@tca.tc
Ms. Marina Joubert, +27 83 409 4254, marina@southernscience.co.za
Follow news through the conference at https://diversitasconference.wordpress.com

World Will Miss 2010 Target To Stem Biodiversity Loss

• As losses accelerate, missed target is “certain”
• Growing water needs, mismanagement leading to “catastrophic decline” in freshwater biodiversity
• Biodiversity science: evolving from sounding alarms to finding solutions
• New systems being created to monitor biodiversity, inform policy
• 600 experts meet in Cape Town Oct. 13-16

The world will miss its agreed target to stem biodiversity loss by next year, according to experts convening in Cape Town for a landmark conference devoted to biodiversity science.

The goal was agreed at the 6th Conference of Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in April 2003. Some 123 world ministers committed to “achieve, by 2010, a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss at the local, national and regional levels, as a contribution to poverty alleviation and to the benefit of all life on Earth.”

“We will certainly miss the target for reducing the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010 and therefore also miss the 2015 environmental targets within the U.N. Millennium Development Goals to improve health and livelihoods for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people,” says Georgina Mace of Imperial College, London, and Vice-Chair of the international DIVERSITAS program, which is convening its 2nd Open Science Conference Oct. 13-16 with 600 experts from around the world.

“It is hard to image a more important priority than protecting the ecosystem services underpinned by biodiversity,” says Prof. Mace. “Biodiversity is fundamental to humans having food, fuel, clean water and a habitable climate.”

“Yet changes to ecosystems and losses of biodiversity have continued to accelerate. Since 1992, even the most conservative estimates agree that an area of tropical rainforest greater than the size of California has been converted mostly for food and fuel. Species extinction rates are at least 100 times those in pre-human times and are expected to continue to increase.”

However, she adds, “the situation is not hopeless. There are many steps available that would help but we cannot dawdle. Meaningful action should have started years ago. The next best time is now.”

The conference, to be opened by UN Under-Secretary-General Achim Steiner, Executive Director of UNEP, will call for new more science-based targets.

“A great deal of awareness-raising is still much needed with respect to the planetary threat posed by the loss of so many species. The focus of biodiversity science today, though, is evolving from describing problems to policy relevant problem solving,” says Stanford University Prof. Hal Mooney, DIVERSITAS Chair.

“Experts are rising to the immense challenge, developing interdisciplinary, science-based solutions to the crisis while building new mechanisms to accelerate progress. Biodiversity scientists are becoming more engaged in policy debates.”

Five roundtables between top science and policy specialists are scheduled on key issues such as efforts to create a science-based global biodiversity observing system (GEO-BON) to improve both coverage and consistency in observations at ground level and via remote sensing.

Says DIVERSITAS vice-chair Prof. Robert Scholes, who heads both GEO-BON and the local organization of the Cape Town conference: “GEO-BON will help give us a comprehensive baseline against which scientists can track biodiversity trends and evaluate the status of everything from genes to ecosystem services. The lack of such information became acutely apparent during preparation of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, and in formulating the CBD’s 2010 targets.”

Others, meanwhile, are creating an international mechanism to unify the voice of the biodiversity science community to better inform policy making, its function akin to that of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In Nairobi Oct. 5-9, environment ministers from countries the world over will consider the creation of such a body, called IPBES (the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services), which would require UN General Assembly approval.

Interdisciplinary work underway to address key issue areas also include:
* How to demonstrate and quantify the economic costs and impacts on human welfare globally and locally due to biodiversity loss and ecosystems degradation (being conducted under the TEEB Initiative);
* How to understand, manage and conserve ecosystem services including, for example, the creation of economic incentives to prevent habitat destruction;
* How to share the benefits from the use of genetic resources fairly and equitably; and
* How to improve research institutions and the international stewardship of biodiversity;

Silent crisis: freshwater species “the most threatened on Earth”

Massive mismanagement and growing human needs for water are causing freshwater ecosystems to collapse, making freshwater species the most threatened on Earth with extinction rates 4 to 6 times higher than their terrestrial and marine cousins, according to conference experts.

Klement Tockner of the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, Berlin says that while freshwater ecosystems cover only 0.8% of the earth’s surface, they contain roughly 10% of all animals, including more than 35% of all vertebrates.

“There is clear and growing scientific evidence that we are on the verge of a major freshwater biodiversity crisis,” says Prof. Tockner. “However, few are aware of the catastrophic decline in freshwater biodiversity at both local and global scale. Threats to freshwater biodiversity have now grown to a global scale.”

The human implications of this trend are “immense,” he adds, because freshwater species in rivers, lakes, ground waters, and wetlands provide a diverse array of vital natural services – more than any other ecosystem type.

The problem puts billions of people at risk as biodiversity loss affects water purification, disease regulation, subsistence agriculture and fishing. Some experts predict that by 2025 not a single Chinese river will reach the sea except during floods with tremendous effects for coastal fisheries in China.

Prof. Tockner says freshwater ecosystems and their species also absorb and bury an significant volume of the planet’s carbon — about 200 million tonnes, or almost 3% of the carbon humans add annually to the atmosphere.

“Although small in area, these freshwater aquatic systems can affect regional carbon balances,” he says.

“Freshwater ecosystems will be the first victims of both climate change and rising demands on water supplies. And the pace of extinctions is quickening – especially in hot spot areas around the Mediterranean, in Central America, China and throughout Southeast Asia.”

“Despite their pivotal ecological and economic importance, freshwater ecosystems have not been of primary concern in policy making,” adds Prof. Tockner. “Only recently did the European Union take the initiative to improve this situation through the EC Biodiversity Strategy. And in the U.S., recent Supreme Court decisions have made wetlands and small streams more vulnerable to loss.”

Prof. Tockner, with colleague Charles Vörösmarty of the City University of New York, will present research at one of 25 conference symposia and invite fellow scientists to help formulate clear government policy recommendations and future research priorities.

Other conference presentations will cover issues ranging from biology to economics and international law, with emphasis on the positive benefits of conservation.

Showcased topics include:

• Assessments of the ecological and economic risks of the rising global trade in wildlife, many of which carry potentially harmful diseases. The USA alone imported almost 1.5 billion live animals between 2000 and 2006, experts say, with inadequate regard to the risks involved;

• The release next year of a report by the UN Convention on Biodiversity called the Global Biodiversity Outlook, to include a major focus on catastrophic biodiversity “tipping points,” which complicate predictions. Such thresholds, if breached, will make global change impacts difficult to control, and slow and expensive to reverse.

• Biodiversity and carbon: How biodiversity loss impacts rates of natural carbon sequestration and carbon cycling on land and in the ocean. Efforts are underway to understand how levels of biodiversity correspond to atmospheric carbon levels throughout Earth’s history in order to better predict the impact of biodiversity on today’s rising carbon dioxide concentrations. Other scientists will warn that bioenergy and artificial carbon sequestration projects should be preceded by greater understanding of the environmental pressures these will create.

With respect to biodiversity and human health, scientist Peter Daszak of the US-based Wildlife Trust, says the emergence of new human diseases from wildlife such as HIV/AIDS, SARS, Ebola, and H5N1 avian influenza is a significant threat not just to public health and conservation but also the global economy.

Such deadly diseases impede wildlife conservation as pressure builds to eradicate reservoir populations and cause disruption to agriculture and trade, tourism and other key economies.

“The single outbreak of SARS cost US $30-50 billion and a truly pandemic H5N1 outbreak is likely to cost between US$300-800 billion,” says Dr. Daszak.

He argues that disease emergence and spread can be predicted based on human environmental and demographic changes that underlie the emergence of these diseases.

“Such studies may ultimately allow us to identify the likely region of origin of the next zoonosis and provide strategies to prevent disease emergence and spread.”

The conference will conclude with a major plenary, chaired by leading expert Lijbert Brussaard, of Wageningen University, The Netherlands, on ways to reconcile the competing Millennium Development Goals of protecting biodiversity, reducing world hunger and alleviating poverty.

“Ecosystem services are difficult to value, which has led to policy neglect and the irreversible loss of species vital to a well-functioning environment,” says Anne Larigauderie, Executive Director of DIVERSITAS.

“It’s important for experts to simply exchange the results of their latest research, but the goal of this conference is to collect insights of practical use to policy makers, and to demonstrate the social benefits of investment in species conservation,” she says.

DIVERSITAS 2nd Open Science Conference
“Understanding connections, adapting to change”
Cape Town International Convention Centre, South Africa; 13-16 October, 2009

DIVERSITAS Open Science Conferences aim to assemble key members of the global scientific and policy community working on biodiversity science.

The 1st DIVERSITAS Open Science Conference, with the theme “Integrating biodiversity science for human well being” took place in Oaxaca, Mexico from 9-12 November 2005. More than 600 world scientists considered overarching issues of biodiversity research resulting in the Oaxaca Declaration of Biodiversity.

Sampling of Symposia Topics:
Strengthening biodiversity science
How biodiversity evolved;
Creating biodiversity inventories;
Drivers of, monitoring and predicting biodiversity changes;
Biodiversity and ecosystem functioning and services
Supporting the science – policy interface
Putting a value on biodiversity and ecosystem services;
Conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity;
Economic incentives to preserve biodiversity; and
Biodiversity and development
Integrated approaches to topical issues
Biodiversity and health;
Agrobiodiversity;
Freshwater, marine, and mountain biodiversity; and
Invasive species

DIVERSITAS (the Latin word for diversity) brings together biological, ecological and social sciences to address key questions that underlie our limited understanding of the current situation.
• How much biodiversity exists and how does its change or loss affect the system as a whole?
• How does biodiversity correspond to the delivery of ecosystem functions and services, and what is the true value of these commodities?
• How can scientific investigation support policy and decision making to encourage more sustainable use of biodiversity?
Armed with a broader, deeper knowledge of biodiversity, we will be better equipped to safeguard the future of Earth’s natural resources.



BLUE CARBON LAUNCH
October 6, 2009, 13:40
Filed under: Press releases | Tags: , ,

Media Advisory—Press Conference Cape Town 14 October 2009, 10:30, Cape Town International Convention Centre

The world’s oceans, seas and marine ecosystems, such as seagrass, salt marshes and coastal wetlands, are daily absorbing and removing large quantities of carbon from the atmosphere. They are a crucial – and perhaps overlooked – natural ally in strategies to combat climate change.

Yet these carbon capture and storage systems are being undermined by human activity harming their ability to ‘sequester’ greenhouse gas emissions.

The Blue Carbon report, compiled in collaboration with the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), puts some hard figures on the carbon capturing potential of the marine environment and on the impact of marine degradation on climate change.

It also outlines the way markets might begin paying developing countries for conserving and enhancing the marine environment’s carbon capture and storage services (CCS) and the links between healthy oceans and adaptation to climate change.

Currently, several developed countries are considering spending billions of dollar on CCS at power stations while the CCS services of natural systems, such as the seas and oceans, are tested and probably more cost effective.

The report is launched some 60 days ahead of the crucial UN climate convention meeting in Copenhagen.

Where: Diversitas Conference, Cape Town Conference Centre, South Africa.
When: 14 October 2009 at 10.30 am
Who: Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, along with the report’s authors.

For more information please contact:
Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson/Head of Media, on Tel: +254 20 7623084, Mobile: +254 733 632755, or when travelling: +41 795965737, or e-mail: nick.nuttall@unep.org

RSVP: Marina Joubert, Acting Communication Person for the Diversitas Conference
Email: marina@southernscience.co.za
Mobile (SA) 083 409 4254