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Environment: Shifting a small amount of global military spending to conservation would go a long way

Elk Rocky Mountain National Park

Well-protected elk browse in Rocky Mountain National Park.

New paper outlines need for renewed conservation emphasis

Staff Report

FRISCO — Shifting just a small fraction of the world’s military spending to conservation could help ensure protection and sustainable management for important wildlife habitat, experts say in a new report released ahead of the upcoming IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney.

The paper, published in Nature, was compiled by experts with Wildlife Conservation Society, the University of Queensland, and the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas. The authors concluded that allocating US $45 – $76 billion —  just 2.5 percent of  global annual military spending — would go a long way toward meeting the need for better management of protected areas. Continue reading

Study: Human impacts dominant in most ecosystems

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Nature unbound — or not? Bob Berwyn photo.

‘Even in protected areas, the influence of humans might be greater than we previously thought … ‘

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — As much as we’d like to believe in nature unbound, a new Canadian study suggests that human impacts are more widespread than we realize, even extending well into protected areas.

The five-year study by University of Calgary ecologists, included monitoring wolves, elks, cattle and humans. The resarchers concluded that human activities dominate all other factors, even in protected areas.

“Our results contrast with research conducted in protected areas that suggested food chains are primarily regulated by predators. Rather, we found that humans influenced other species in the food chain in a number of direct and indirect ways, thus overshadowing top-down and bottom-up effects,” said lead author Dr. Tyler Muhly.

The study was a collaboration between NSERC, Shell Canada, Parks Canada, the Alberta Government and the Universities of Alberta and Calgary. The ecologists used dozens of animal tagging devices and motion sensor-activated cameras to study human, animal and plant distribution throughout southwest Alberta. The research area stretched from Calgary in the northeast, through to the provincial borders with British Columbia in the west and the US-Canada border in the south.

“Understanding the significance of the impact that humans have on ecosystems is a critical component in formulating long-term and effective conservation strategies,” said reseacher Marco Musiani. “Our results led us to believe that ecologists have underestimated the impact of humans on natural food chains. The data we collected shows that humans are deliberately or inadvertently engineering ecosystems regardless of whether they would be naturally pre-disposed to top-down or bottom-up effects. Even in protected areas, the influence of humans might be greater than we previously thought,” Musiani said.

Ecologists have long debated whether natural ecosystems and associated food chains are primarily regulated by predators or by the productivity of plant species, called top-down and bottom-up effects, respectively. With most of the world’s ecosystems now dominated by humans, researchers from the University of Calgary sought to understand how much people influenced food chains in southwest Alberta.

“We painstakingly monitored wolves, elk, cattle and plant species, as well as humans for five years. We evaluated how these species interacted across the landscape and ultimately found that humans dominated the ecosystem,” Muhly said.

“In particular, we found that forage-mediated effects of humans (bottom-up effects) were more influential than predator-mediated effects in the food chain. The presence of humans was most correlated with occurrence of forage (plants). Elk and cattle distribution correlated closely with forage, and the distribution of wolves matched that of the elk and cattle they view as potential prey.

IUCN ‘Green List’ program to highlight successful conservation efforts

Designations seen as step toward worldwide biodiversity goals

The IUCN is developing a Green List program to highlight protected areas that are managed to high standards.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Along with a developing red list of endangered ecosystems, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature is focusing on highlighting well-managed protected areas with a Green List.

The Green List project will be formally unveiled at the 2014 World Parks Congress in Australia. The Green List will celebrate protected area successes, setting benchmarks to reward effective and equitable management.

Protected areas wishing to be included on the IUCN Green List will have to satisfy a threshold of agreed criteria, including meeting their conservation goals, achieving effective management and facilitating equitable governance. Continue reading

Nagoya biodiversity talks end with ambitious goals

A brook frog in Guatemala. Global amphibian populations are suffering a shocking decline. They provide many important services to humans such as controlling insects that spread disease and damage crops. The chemicals in some amphibian skins have also been important in helping to create new drugs with the potential to save lives, including a painkiller 200 times more potent than morphine.

Countries plan target tenfold increase in marine protected areas

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Along with rejecting what they called ‘climate hacking,’ delegates to the recently ended biodiversity talks in Japan agreed to step up global conservation efforts by working to increase protected areas in the next 10 years. Right now about 13 percent of the Earth’s land surface is protected in one way or another, and the agreement in Nagoya hopes to increase that percentage to 17 percent in the next 10 year, along with protecting 10 percent of the marine realm.

Representatives from 193 governments participating in the Nagoya talks for the past two weeks agreed on a global action plan to prevent the extinction of threatened animals and plants and conserve intact habitats over the next decade. The targets established eight years ago to “significantly reduce the rate of biodiversity loss” by 2010 were not met at a global level, despite individual progress by some nations, but this new agreement offers more hope and a much more comprehensive plan. Continue reading

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