Billions of people around the world depend on some 50,000 wild species for food, energy, medicine and income, according to a major new scientific report which concludes that humans must make dramatic changes to hunting and other practices to deal with an accelerating biodiversity crisis.
The report, prepared for the United Nations over four years by 85 experts from 33 countries, is the most comprehensive review to date of pathways to using wildlife sustainably, or in ways that do not lead to decline. of these resources in the long term and ensures their availability for future generations. It draws on thousands of scientific studies and other references, including a body of indigenous and local knowledge. Indigenous and poor communities are among the most immediately affected by the overexploitation of wildlife, according to the report.
“Half of humanity benefits from and uses wildlife, and often without even knowing they are doing so,” said Marla R. Emery, one of the co-chairs of the assessment, which was led by the ‘Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. A summary was approved Thursday in Bonn, Germany, by representatives from 139 countries, including the United States, and the full report is expected to be released in a few months.
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Yet the aim of this latest assessment was to provide a more optimistic view of how wild species can be used sustainably by people around the world, said Jean-Marc Fromentin, also one of the co-chairs.
A third of wild species that humans use in some way and which are also on the “red list” – those listed as threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature – have experienced trends stable or growing populations despite human use, according to a study cited in the report. This suggests that “the use of these specific species is not yet directly contributing to their extinction, as far as we can tell,” said Sophie Marsh, an MSc student in biodiversity at University College London and lead author. of the study on endangered species. which was released in 2021.
According to the report, indigenous and local knowledge is essential for learning some of the best sustainable use practices, but has traditionally been underutilized. Indigenous communities have long incorporated sustainable uses of wildlife into their cultural practices, and around 15% of the world’s forests are managed as “community resources”, according to the report, by indigenous peoples and local communities.
The report referred to practices like those used in the hills of the Cordillera region of Luzon, the largest island in the Philippines. There, “the whole community is mobilizing to protect the forest,” said Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, an Indigenous rights activist who grew up in the area. The practice is called Batangan, a resource management system that involves a shared sense of responsibility to monitor forest diversity and plant new trees as older ones age.
It’s not just about trees, “it’s about water, plants and animals, micro-organisms”, and increasingly it’s about climate change, as forests play an essential role in carbon sequestration, said Ms. Tauli-Corpuz.
The sustainable use of wildlife is central to the identity and existence of many indigenous and local communities, the report says.
“If wildlife disappears, our culture is in danger, our way of life and our livelihoods are in danger,” said Viviana Figueroa, an Argentine lawyer and indigenous activist who participated in dialogues with the report’s authors in the as part of its participation in the International Forum of Indigenous Peoples. on biodiversity. “There’s still a lot of work to do, but at least there’s some recognition,” Ms Figueroa said.
Future policies governing the use of wildlife will need to take into account the social and historical dimensions of sustainability and whether the benefits of such use are equitably distributed. For example, vicuña fibres, found in luxury clothing, are very expensive and produced mainly by low-income indigenous communities in South America who contribute to vicuña conservation by allowing the animals to graze on their communal or private land.
Yet it is “almost impossible” for a remote Andean community to negotiate with an international textile company or place their product on the international market, according to the report, meaning that most of the profits from the vicuña fiber trade are captured by traders. and textile companies.
The fishing industry will need to reduce unregulated and illegal fishing, further support small-scale fishing and remove harmful subsidies that encourage overfishing, the report recommends. The forest industry will also need to invest in technologies that reduce waste in the manufacture of wood products, the report finds, and governments may need to tighten bans or regulations on bushmeat in some regions, while assessing whether these policies could have an impact on food insecurity in these regions.
The findings of the new report may soon have a direct effect on international politics. The report was produced in part at the request of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, a treaty designed to ensure that the global trade in plants and animals does not endanger their survival in nature. Parties to the treaty will use the results of the assessment to inform their trade decisions at their conference in Panama in November.
Overexploitation of wild species is not the only factor behind the decline; Human-caused climate change is also a major force, according to the report. Growing human populations and consumption, as well as technological advances that make many extraction practices more efficient, will also put greater pressures on wildlife.
“We need to make sure that these policy instruments benefit everyone,” said Emma Archer, a professor at the University of Pretoria in South Africa and one of the lead authors of the assessment. “There need not be both winners and losers.”
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