Blind targets

Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

-- UP To half of the world's biological wealth is threatened with extinction if the current protective measures are not extended to cover more land area. This is the conclusion of a report, Moving Beyond Brundtland, which was commissioned by Greenpeace and released recently in Vancouver, Canada.

The report is based on a case study on endangered temperate rainforests of British Columbia (BC) in Canada, carried out by M E Soule and M A Sanjayan from the University of California, Santa Cruz, us. According to Soule, international organisations and governments that recommend low national targets for protection are tacitly justifying an extinction of roughly fifty per cent, on average, of each nation's biological heritage. "The 12 per cent target for land area protection is not sufficient to maintain viable populations of species in BC," says Sanjayan.

Several countries of the world have set targets for protected areas under various international conventions.

However, the report observes that the were decided more by political consideratio6 tHlan by well-reasoned, scientifically-based ecosystem planning. Soule and Sanjayan also question the potential benefits of setting such targets. Most nations have misconstrued these targets, notably the governments agreeing to implement an interim protected area target of 10 per cent by the year 2000, under a progijamme launched by the World Wide Fund for Nature, says the report.

The World Conservation Union estimates that loss of forest and other natural habitat will endanger 75 per cent of mammals, 42 per cent of birds, 53 per cent of amphibians and 66 per cent of reptiles. According to the principle of species-area relationship established on the basis of empirical studies, a 90 per cent loss of habitat results in a 50 per cent loss of species within the remaining habitat. The best conservation method, therefore, would be the comprehensive protection of ecologically-representative core areas that are large enough to maintain all dependent species and natural dynamics, says the report.

"The 12 per cent target (in BC) is a political construct that is not borne out by good science. Even more disturbing is the fact that over 60 per cent of what has been protected in BC since 1992 has been rock and ice," says Sanjayan. BC shelters the largest intact tract of ancient temperate rainforest in the world, which is home to a large number of species dependent on its ancient forests and waterbodies. However, it is not likely to remain so, as 36 of the unprotected 76 valleys in Bc are scheduled to be logged in the next five years.

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