The conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity is essential for the well-being of people and nature. However, governments, businesses and conservation organisations struggle to acquire the up-to-date information they need to manage and protect animals, plants, fungi and their habitats. Biodiversity data, such as the abundance and distribution of species and the scale of the threats they face, are often difficult to collect or access and are rarely available in formats that allow them to be understood easily and acted upon.
Solutions proposed to unblock the flow of biodiversity information include the development of guidelines and tools for collecting, analysing and interpreting data, and building capacity for their use. However, for such solutions to be developed, it is important to understand better the blockages preventing people from accessing the information they need.
This multi-disciplinary, collaborative project brings together experts from conservation biology and business sustainability to explore the following research questions
Methods to be employed include a systematic literature review and online questionnaire surveys of key data users and analyses of existing data sources. The project’s partners will also undertake “deep-dives” (semi-structured individual and focus group interviews) into the issues around biodiversity data access in three countries: Colombia, Ghana and Switzerland.
These case studies can help uncover the root causes of data access problems and identify solutions for those who need them in government departments, international organisations, NGOs and businesses. Working with Information Technology experts a user-friendly, open-access decision support tool will be developed. It will help stakeholders find the standards, guidelines, tools, methods and data they need.
The project will enhance and complement global efforts by international organisations like IUCN and GEOBON to share and publicise data sources and make existing tools and data freely available. It will contribute to ensuring biodiversity data are used in environmental decision-making and ultimately help halt biodiversity loss.
Since 1, Fauna & Flora International (FFI) has been working with Bulyango, Kasenene and Kidoma-Bulimya Private Forest Owners Associations in the Northern Albertine Rift, Uganda. The focus is to empower local communities and strengthen community-based natural resource management through reforestation of two wildlife corridors for chimpanzees (Budongo–Mukihani and Bugoma– Wambabya forest linkages) and improved monitoring of chimpanzees and any threats to them.
Within the Private Forest Owners Associations, several Village Savings and Loan Associations have been established as an incentive for communities to engage in conservation activities, and to provide access to affordable microcredits that enable community members to invest in conservation-friendly enterprises. At the project outset, FFI provided capacity building for community members to enhance the governance and management of savings and loan groups. Groups that demonstrated sufficient capacity were provided with additional seed funds through the Private Forest Owners Association, to enable grants through a revolving fund mechanism.
Biodiversity is inherently linked to business operations and supply chains. When businesses fail to address biodiversity, they expose themselves to substantial operational, legal, financial, and reputational risks that accumulate to our entire economic system. For example, 75% of agricultural crops, worth $2.4 trillion, rely on insect pollination, and insect populations are rapidly declining, threatening not just the industry but our food security.
Biodiversity is also an opportunity for business. More than 60% of cancer-fighting agents have natural origins, a market worth $112 billion annually, with a human well-being value that is incalculable. Nature-based solutions can also address up to 30% of climate change mitigation. Businesses have strong reasons to focus on biodiversity.
In the last decade, the private sector has made significant contributions to reducing greenhouse gas emissions but only limited efforts to tackle the biodiversity crisis. Considering that 96% of business leaders are not well-informed about biodiversity, it is difficult for them to know how to embed biodiversity in their sustainability governance practices and introduce necessary systems changes. Business leaders need ways to find nature-positive solutions and resources to help them make informed decisions about biodiversity.
Many stakeholders, from governments to civil society to businesses, lack the data they need to make informed decisions on biodiversity, jeopardising efforts to conserve, restore and sustainably manage nature. Here we review the importance of enhancing biodiversity monitoring, assess the
challenges involved and identify potential solutions. Capacity for biodiversity monitoring needs to be enhanced urgently, especially in poorer, high-biodiversity countries where data gaps are disproportionately high. Modern tools and technologies, including remote sensing, bioacoustics and environmental DNA, should be used at larger scales to fill taxonomic and geographic data gaps, especially in the tropics, in marine and freshwater biomes, and for plants, fungi and invertebrates. Stakeholders need to follow best monitoring practices, adopting appropriate indicators and using counterfactual approaches to measure and attribute outcomes and impacts. Data should be made openly and freely available. Companies need to invest in collecting the data required to enhance sustainability in their operations and supply chains. With governments soon to commit to the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, the time is right to make a concerted push on monitoring. However, action at scale is needed now if we are to enhance results-based management adequately to conserve the biodiversity and ecosystem services we all depend on.
University of Lausanne
Peter J. Stephenson
University of Lausanne
Judith L. Walls
University of St-Gallen
Center for African Wetlands, University of Ghana
Maria Cecilia Londoño Murcia
Instituto de Investigación de Recursos Biológicos Alexander von Humboldt & GEOBON