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Nature: the decisive solution for the climate change crisis

16 January 2017
Photo: © Enamul Mazid Khan Siddique/IUCN

This blog, published in Thomson Reuters Foundation News, highlights how MFF harnesses the natural functions of ecosystems and women’s strength in resource management to bring about better solutions to climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Near the Sundarbans, Bangladesh, home to the largest mangrove forest in the world, Promila makes her living by making mats out of a grass-like wetlands plant called ‘reed’. Depending on size, these mats are sold at US$1 to $7 through a community enterprise established by Promila and her friends.

Thanks to the reed mat business, Promila and over 100 other women in her community no longer have to rely on collecting shrimp and fish – hence reducing pressure on the Kholpetua river.

Besides playing a role in mitigating climate change, the mat business has also brought about social benefits. The women now have a new-found confidence that enables them to negotiate prices directly with customers, while maintaining fruitful working relations with shopkeepers.

Implemented through Mangroves for the Future (MFF), an International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) partnership-based coastal programme, this alternative livelihoods initiative in Bangladesh is an example of a conservation intervention designed to conserve biodiversity by substituting one livelihood activity that causes harm to a species or a habitat with another activity that causes less harm. 

Photo: © IUCN/Kumudini EkaratneNature-based solution
In just a few decades, reccurring heat waves, rapidly rising sea levels, and more intense droughts, wildfires, and floods, are clear signs that our planet is experiencing a serious upsurge in climate change.

To tackle this existential crisis, there are two solutions that we can consider: the first is climate change mitigation, which includes swift reduction of global carbon emissions. The second is climate change adaptation, like Promila’s story above, which refers to increasing our capacity to address the adverse impacts of climate change.

At IUCN, we believe that the best way to achieve climate change adaptation and mitigation is to utilise the natural functions of healthy ecosystems. Such nature-based solutions help protect the environment, and provide economic and social benefits.

Mangroves for example, are plants that have the ability to absorb very large amounts of CO2 – making them a fundamental asset in our efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

Mangrove swamps also provide a more effective buffer that protects coastal regions from storm surges and tsunamis than man-made dykes. Sustainably managed mangrove forests further provide firewood, food, as well as spawning grounds for fish.

Empowerment and community ownership
As we combat climate change, forgetting to engage local communities and empowering them in the process would be a major faux pas. These communities have, over centuries, developed practices that protect the natural resources on which they rely for their survival.

Using such knowledge will increase our chances of protecting ecosystems, which in turn will help us mitigate the impacts of climate change, and cope with its aftermath. Building on existing traditional knowledge not only satisfies local communities’ expectations, but also provides a solid basis to address current and upcoming challenges.

It is therefore important to provide the right conditions for local communities – with a particular focus on women – to manage natural resources within and surrounding their territories.

Photo: © IUCN Bangladesh and Nabolok ParishadGender equality: the silver bullet
In many countries, women play a dominant role in natural resource management and have traditional responsibilities such as growing food, collecting water, and being the primary caregivers for their families.

But, despite the fact that women play such a critical role in the conservation of ecosystems, their contribution is, unfortunately, often overlooked and undervalued.

The good news though, is that within the climate change paradigm, contributions of women are receiving increased attention, with more and more conservation experts calling for women to have greater ownership of the ecosystems on which they rely.

With their knowledge of sustainable resource-management at the household as well as the community level, women play a fundamental role in our collective response to climate change.

This article is written by Ann Moey, Regional Communications Manager, IUCN Asia with contributions from Anushae Parakh, Programme Assistant, MFF.   

Mangroves for the Future (MFF) is a partnership-based regional initiative which promotes investment in coastal ecosystem conservation for sustainable development. MFF focuses on the role that healthy, well-managed coastal ecosystems play in building the resilience of ecosystem-dependent coastal communities in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Pakistan, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Viet Nam. The initiative uses mangroves as a flagship ecosystem, but MFF is inclusive of all types of coastal ecosystem, such as coral reefs, estuaries, lagoons, sandy beaches, sea grasses and wetlands. MFF is co-chaired by IUCN and UNDP, and is funded by Danida, Norad, and Sida and the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Thailand.



A look back at 2016: Biodiversity conservation in the Indo-Burma region

12 January 2017
James Tallant, CEPF RIT Manager; Jack Tordoff, Managing Director of CEPF; and Nguyen Van Truong, Fauna and Flora International during their visit to Ha Giang province , Viet Nam. Photo: © Nguyen Van Truong/FFI.

The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) in the Indo-Burma region will enter the new year with renewed optimism after making significant progress towards biodiversity conservation in 2016.

Active in the region since 2008, CEPF’s Indo-Burma portfolio now includes 125 grants (60 large and 65 small) worth over US$ 10.7million spread across the six countries of the hotspot: Myanmar, Lao PDR, Cambodia, Thailand, Viet Nam and parts of southern China. Currently 87 projects are active, while 38 have been completed.

Beyond Enforcement workshop © Thuy Anh Nguyen/IUCN Viet Nam. Photo: © Thuy Anh Nguyen/IUCN Viet NamCompleted projects include initiatives contributing to the long-term conservation of three Critically Endangered vulture species in Cambodia (implemented by BirdLife International), and strengthening conservation of globally threatened primate and tree species, and their limestone habitats in China (implemented by Fauna and Flora International). Many of these projects have emphasised the importance of participatory approaches through the empowerment of local communities, and engaging them in the management of their natural resources. 

In October and November, National Advisory Committees (NACs) comprising representatives of local and international NGOs, government agencies and donors, convened in each of the hotspot countries to review Letters of Inquiry (LoIs) submitted following the seventh and eighth calls for proposals.

Proposals submitted address CEPF Strategic Direction 4 - "Empower local communities to engage in conservation and management of priority key biodiversity areas", Strategic Direction 6 - "Engage key actors in mainstreaming biodiversity, communities and livelihoods into development planning in the priority corridors", and Strategic Direction 8 - "Strengthen the capacity of civil society to work on biodiversity, communities and livelihoods at regional, national, local and grassroots levels". 

CEPF’s Indo-Burma Regional Implementation Team (RIT), which comprises IUCN, the Myanmar Environment Rehabilitation-conservation Network (MERN) and Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden (KFBG) is now making final decisions and sending notification letters to successful applicants.

With continued focus on building the technical and managerial capacity of local civil society organisations to successfully apply for grants and effectively implement projects, CEPF organised several capacity building events in 2016. In August, CEPF and IUCN Thailand organised a two-day workshop on proposal writing and project implementation for 30 representatives of Thai civil society organisations. 

A series of six training courses on the role and importance of civil society networks, natural resources management, and project development and proposal writing, co-funded by the EU, were also conducted for Myanmar civil society organisations between July and October.

Group discussion on institutional capacity assessment and environmental situation analysis.Most recently, in November, CEPF grantees TRAFFIC, WWF, Freeland, Wildlife Conservation Society, NTFP/Poh Kao, Friends of Wildlife, Project Anoulak, MIup Baitong, and Wildlife Alliance, all participated in a learning event organised alongside the Hanoi Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade. The"Beyond Enforcement: Involving Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities in Combating Illegal Wildlife Trade” workshopwas organised by IUCN, with the IUCN CEESP/SSC Sustainable Use and Livelihoods Specialist Group (SULi), the International Institute of Environment and Development (IIED), TRAFFIC, and  the (ICCA) Consortium, with funding from USAID and GIZ. 

On CEPF’s plans for 2017, James Tallant, Senior Programme Officer, Species, for IUCN Asia and CEPF RIT Manager, said, “Much of the work of the RIT will continue, such as contracting successful grants following the 2016 calls for proposals, monitoring active projects, and organising training events. However, we will also have an increased focus on identifying best practices and capturing lessons learned as more CEPF-funded projects draw to a close.”

Additionally, the RIT will be hosting an event for the civil society network in Phnom Penh in February as a follow-up to the "Regional Convening on Environmental Networks" held in Thailand in March last year. 

“We will organise a meeting of civil society organisations in the Indo-Burma region interested in promoting better collaboration and coordination. We also plan to scale-up some of our capacity-building efforts, with an additional focus on supporting civil society to better engage with, and influence government and private sector partners,” added Tallant. 

Founded in 2000, the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund is a global leader in enabling civil society to participate in and benefit from conserving some of the world’s most critical ecosystems by providing grants for organisations to help protect biodiversity hotspots, Earth’s most biologically rich yet threatened areas. CEPF is a joint initiative of l'Agence Française de Développement, Conservation International, the European Union, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, the MacArthur Foundation and the World Bank.



Mountain and markets - Ministry, experts at ethnobotanical seminar highlight need for sustainable harvesting of Pakistan’s biodiversity products

11 January 2017
Highlights of Ethnobotanical Seminar. Photo: IUCN Pakistan.

A national seminar on ethno-botany was organized by IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, in Islamabad on 29th December, 2016, where experts highlighted the importance of the rich flora found in Pakistan’s northern region, and underscored the need for ensuring a sustainable use of biodiversity products, including herbs and plants, used often for the benefit of humans.

Representatives from the Ministry of Climate Change, Government of Pakistan, UNDP, IUCN as well as experts from the forestry and herbal sectors, and academia, participated in the event.

Highlights of Ethnobotanical Seminar. Photo: IUCN Pakistan.The seminar was organized as part of the Mountain and Markets Project being executed by IUCN in partnership with the Ministry of Climate Change and UNDP in the northern areas of Pakistan. The project focuses on developing community and institutional capacity for certified production of 'biodiversity-friendly' Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFP) in northern Pakistan and stimulates market demand for biodiversity friendly NTFP thereby creating new economic incentives for conservation.

The chief representative from the Ministry of Climate Change was Syed Abu Ahmad Akif, Federal Secretary, at the Ministry of Climate Change, who reminded the audience that, “Pakistan has a lot of botanical diversity and a potential for economic growth especially  the rural people in mountainous northern areas. Economic scope of Botanical products is expanding day by day across the globe, and therefore there is a need to ensure a speedy and quality-focused value chain, while ensuring a sustainable use of such products.

Syed Mahmood Nasir, Inspector General Forest / National Project Director (NPD) Mountain & Market Project, noted that “all governments preserve the indigenous herbs and plants, and these should be protected for the benefit of humans. Referring to the Nagoya Protocol, he said that the herbal and plant medicine was a billion-dollar industry “and the world is now moving towards organic and herbal medicine – the industry is likely to grow as more and more people are becoming aware.” “But the challenge in this is to ensure that we use these products in a sustainable manner,” he explained. He mentioned that one of the key components of the project was the formation of the Business and Biodiversity Roundtable (BBRT) which brought together collectors, buyers and companies working on herbal medicine, and trained them in certifications and “and we have brought them to the stage where our herbs from Pakistan can be certified for export.” He urged that herbal companies which are using various plants and herbs in their medicines, should refer to the CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) list which mentions all import, export, re-export and introduction from the sea of species covered by the Convention through a licensing system. 

Highlights of Ethnobotanical Seminar. Photo: IUCN Pakistan.Mr. Mahmood Akhtar Cheema, Country Representative IUCN Pakistan, said that in the project “we have worked with communities to establish biodiversity conservation in northern Pakistan. Mountain and Markets have tried to add value to the complete value chain of the Non-Timber Forest Products so that the products become more marketable and the benefits accrue to the communities. Under the Mountain and Markets Project IUCN will also develop community’s institutional capacity as Community Based Enterprises for certified production of 'biodiversity-friendly' products and stimulate market demand for biodiversity friendly products thereby creating new economic incentives for conservation.”

Prof. Dr. Muhammad Ashraf (S.I.) Chairman, Pakistan Science Foundation, explained that “Ethno-botany is where culture, environment, plant and human being interaction is seen and studied in a broad spectrum. Pakistan does not have a proper botanical garden, the way you find in other countries.” He said Pakistan is planning to establish a full-fledged botanical garden which will have all types of biomes.


For more information, please contact:

George Sadiq
Programme Officer
Education Communication and Outreach
Cell: 0301-2931184



Queens of Bees

26 December 2016
Photo: © MFF Viet Nam

More than half the 155,000 population in Tien Lan District, Viet Nam are women who derive incomes mainly from agriculture and aquaculture. Past practices – especially the clearing of mangroves for shrimp farming – have lowered the resilience of coastal communities, and decreased the natural services provided by mangroves.

Developing alternative livelihoods for communities in these areas of mangrove deforestation is seen as a crucial step to protecting valuable mangrove forests.

Through an alternative livelihood project supported by MFF, the women of  Hai Phong City in Tien Lan District were able to get micro-loans to invest in equipment and training in sustainable beekeeping, and study tours to learn about eco-labeling for wild honey. 

With beekeeping as an alternative livelihood activity, less pressure is placed on the mangroves which provide nursery grounds for fish, reduce climate change related disaster risks, filter pollutants as well as provide an important source of food and livelihood for coastal communities.

Implemented by Tien Lang Women’s Union, the “Establish a sustainable apiculture model run by women in the mangrove forest of Tien Lan District, Hai Phong City” project ran from November 2014 to July 2015. Hai Phong Union of Friendship Organizations provided managerial support for the project while Hai Phong Institution of Animal Science helped with technical support.

After an initial survey of 70 households in Hai Phong City, 20 elected to participate in the project. At the end of the project, 17 of the 20 households reported increased annual income of approximately VND 11m (approx. US$ 500) from apiculture production.

The project was conceived, designed and implemented by women who have full ownership of, control of and access to resources. When the project ended, all households agreed to contribute to a development fund for mangrove protection and to expand the project further.

When asked about the importance of mangrove ecosystems, the women unanimously agreed that not only do mangroves represent their main income, but are essential for wellbeing of the environment.


Mangroves for the Future (MFF) is a partnership-based regional initiative which promotes investment in coastal ecosystem conservation for sustainable development. MFF focuses on the role that healthy, well-managed coastal ecosystems play in building the resilience of ecosystem-dependent coastal communities in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Pakistan, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Viet Nam. The initiative uses mangroves as a flagship ecosystem, but MFF is inclusive of all types of coastal ecosystem, such as coral reefs, estuaries, lagoons, sandy beaches, sea grasses and wetlands. MFF is co-chaired by IUCN and UNDP, and is funded by Danida, Norad, and Sida and the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Thailand.



IUCN Red List of Threatened Species accurately assesses extinction risk using the latest technology

18 December 2016
The Helmeted Hornbill is a forest-dependent species which was recently uplisted to Critically Endangered because of hunting pressure for its casque and loss of its forest habitat as determined by an analysis of forest loss using remotely sensed data (photo © Michaela Koschova)

A response to Ocampo-Peñuela et al. (2016); Science Advances

The IUCN Red List reflects threats to birds and other species accurately based on the latest available science, while continually working to incorporate information from the latest monitoring techniques into its species assessments.

A recent scientific study claimed that the Red List could be underestimating the number of species at risk. The study found a higher number of threatened species of birds when using an estimate of their ‘remaining suitable habitat area’ based on remote sensing data, and concluded that this was because the Red List was not estimating habitat area accurately enough.

In fact, the higher number of threatened species the study arrived at was mostly due to the fact that it used the ‘remaining suitable habitat area’ incorrectly when assessing the extinction risk of species.

The ‘suitable habitat area’ should have been applied to the ‘area of occupancy thresholds (IUCN criterion B2) but the study instead mistakenly applied it to ‘extent of occurrence’ thresholds (IUCN criterion B1), which are an order of magnitude larger than ‘area of occupancy'. This is why the study concluded that the thresholds were met for many more species than are actually threatened with extinction.

Ocampo-Peñuela et al. incorrectly state that the IUCN does not take advantage of new technologies. In reality, IUCN is already making use of new technologies, and continues its efforts to integrate new technologies into assessments. For example, Tracewski et al. (2016) published an analysis of over 11,000 species—all forest-dependent birds, mammals and amphibians worldwide—calculating their extent of suitable habitat using the same high resolution tree-cover data but correctly comparing the results with the B2 rather than B1 thresholds. The results of the Tracewski et al. study are feeding into updates of the IUCN Red List that will be published in 2017 (birds and mammals) and 2018 (amphibians).

Follow this link for the full response.

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