Current News

News Releases

Restoring the connection between forests and human health

17 March 2017
Children playing on a log. Photo: Shutterstock

Forests play a crucial role in supporting our mental and physical health, yet this is often overlooked within health strategies, education programmes, and in everyday human lifestyles. In the 2017 Spring Issue of REVOLVE Magazine, Chantal van Ham and Helen Klimmek from the IUCN European Regional Office explore the numerous benefits and services provided by forests, and the need to recognise these within health strategies and programmes.

The European Union currently faces a number of health-care challenges. These include a changing demographic, limited financial resources, growing health inequalities between and within Member States, and a growing prevalence of chronic diseases. Fundamental to developing an effective European health-care system is the recognition that the presence of ecosystems such as forests can play a crucial role in helping us lead happier and healthier lives. IUCN showcases the health benefits of connecting people to forests in their article for REVOLVE Magazine.

Studies show that spending time in green spaces, particularly natural areas such as forests, plays an important part in child and adolescent development, as well as in the prevention and treatment of health problems such as asthma, cardiovascular disease, obesity, anxiety and depression. These benefits have been recognised in public health campaigns and initiatives around the world. As part of the Unites States National Park Service’s ‘Healthy Parks Healthy People’ programme, doctors prescribe time in nature to help treat conditions such as diabetes, depression, and high blood pressure. In Japan, the restorative ben­efits of forests were formally recognised in 1982 when the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries advocated Shinrin-yoku (forest bathing) as a form of stress management and relaxation. The potential of natural areas such as forests to provide an escape from our increasingly stressful, noisy, and polluted surroundings is also being acknowledged in the UK and Sweden, where forest and park areas near health care facilities are being used to support rehabilitation and recuperation.

Despite these positive examples and ample evidence demonstrating the links between human health and outdoor activity, children and adults are in fact spending more and more time indoors, which has contributed to the prevalence of various physical and mental health problems. Reconnecting people with nature by showcasing the wonder and beauty of the natural world as well as the many essential services and benefits entailed, can play an important role in encouraging more active and healthy lifestyles and in tackling many of the health-care challenges facing society today. Initiatives such as IUCN's #NatureForAll campaign aim to do just that by inspiring a new generation of thinkers and doers across all sectors of society to connect with nature and take action to support its conservation. The more people experience, connect with, and share their love of nature, the more support there will be for its conservation. This, in turn, will have a positive impact on human health by ensuring that we continue to benefit from the vast array of valuable goods and services provided by nature, such as clean air, green spaces, and stress-free environments, which are so essential to our health and well-being.

There is a lot to gain from bringing the nature conserva­tion and health sectors closer together and jointly developing solu­tions for health-related challenges. The EU has an important role to play in supporting this process and in ensuring that policies and financial mechanisms take into account the links between health, societal, and envi­ronmental concerns. Supporting dialogues between policymakers, scientists, and communities are essential to developing more holistic approaches to human health-care and environmental protection. By fostering these types of dialogues through initiatives such as the Parks for the Planet Forum, highlighting the benefits of nature, and sharing conservation success stories from around the world, IUCN is committed to re-establishing the connection between humans and nature and supporting the achievement of a healthier and happier Europe for all. 

 

Download the full article “Restoring the connection between forests and human health” from the tab on the right or read the full REVOLVE Magazine spring issue here.

 

 

IUCN welcomes first-ever UN report acknowledging healthy ecosystems as a human right

16 March 2017
Mangrove fishing. Photo: © Rod Waddington CC BY-SA 2.0

IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, welcomed a recent report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Environment and Human Rights, Prof. John Knox, which highlights how biodiversity and ecosystems are essential to human rights.

This is the first-ever UN report acknowledging that the loss of biodiversity undermines human rights, for example by reducing agricultural and fisheries outputs, negatively affecting health or removing filters from the water cycle. By conserving biodiversity, states therefore also contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on food security, health and water, among others.

UN Human Rights Council panel event, 9th March 2017. Photo: IUCN/Helena Clavero SousaIUCN Director General Inger Andersen welcomed the report: “People have the right to benefit from nature for their livelihoods and for rewarding and dignified lives. This includes, for example, the right to food for all, for present and future generations, the right to water, the right to housing, the right to health and many other social, economic and cultural rights. All of these depend on functioning ecosystems and biodiversity,” she said, speaking at a UN Human Rights Council panel event last week.

IUCN has long been addressing the links between conserving biodiversity and achieving human rights. In 1994, the Union issued Caring for the Earth: A strategy for sustainable living, where it declared that “we have a right to the benefits of nature, but these will not be available unless we care for the systems that provide them.”

Through its work, such as the development of guidelines and policy frameworks for government engagement with indigenous peoples and local communities, IUCN highlights the threats from environmental change and degradation to those directly dependent on ecosystems. 

“IUCN offers a unique space for dialogue that brings together the conservation and human rights communities as well as governments and civil society,” said IUCN Senior Advisor on Social Policy, Gonzalo Oviedo at a plenary of the Human Rights Council. “We will be extremely pleased to continue to work with the UN Special Rapporteur and with the Human Rights Council to implement the recommendations of this report for the protection of human rights and the conservation of biodiversity.”

The UN report’s recognition of the link between human rights and biodiversity should promote collaboration between the conservation, human rights and development communities to achieve the objectives of sustainable development.

The report also called on states to recognise defenders of biodiversity as defenders of human rights. IUCN has been calling for increased efforts to protect environmental activists from the growing threats and persecution they face. 

 

 

Cambodia’s Bengal Floricans threatened by planned power line development

15 March 2017
Bengal Florican. Photo: © Jonathan Eames

With funds from a number of organisations, including the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), a grant-making mechanism led by IUCN in the Indo-Burma hotspot, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Cambodia is contributing towards conserving the Critically Endangered Bengal Florican. 

A proposed power transmission line at the edge of the Tonle Sap Floodplain Protected Landscape (TSFPL), which might be constructed as early as next year, would pose a new threat to the Critically Endangered Bengal Florican. 

The Bengal Florican (Houbaropsis bengalensis) is listed on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ as Critically Endangered, with a global population of fewer than 800. Cambodia is the most important country for Bengal Florican conservation. In 2012, University of East Anglia (UEA) researchers found that approximately 432 Bengal Floricans remain in the country.

“With 15 satellite tagged Bengal Floricans, we found that the Bengal Floricans migrate across the route of the proposed power line twice each year as they move between breeding and non-breeding grounds,” said Dr Paul Dolman from UEA.

“Some Floricans may cross the power line more frequently, as current plans show it will be built close to a protected area – the Northern Tonle Sap Protected Landscape – that supports Cambodia’s largest, and most importantly, stable, population of the species,” he added.

Power transmission lines are a particular problem for large, slow flying birds like bustards, storks, cranes and raptors, that cannot manoeuvre easily. Bustards, which include the Bengal Florican, are among the most likely of all bird species to collide with overhead lines because they have a narrow binocular vision. Researchers from UEA and the University of Lisbon compiled data showing serious impacts of power lines on other species of bustards in Central Asia, South Africa, and Europe, demonstrating the impacts likely to affect the Cambodian Bengal Florican population.

“Protecting the remaining population of Bengal Floricans in Cambodia is critical for the survival of this species. The power line company must employ mitigation techniques that ensure the Bengal Florican can co-exist with the power line,” said Mr Hong Chamnan, Bengal Florican Conservation Project Manager.

The Northern Tonle Sap Protected Landscape, which was established in 2016 from the Bengal Florican Conservation Areas and that had been previously managed by the Forestry Administration, covers 31,159 hectares between the Kampong Thom and Siem Reap provinces. WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) works closely with the Ministry of Environment to conserve the NTSPL and the important wildlife that it supports, including the Bengal Florican. This is done through various conservation activities such as assisting law enforcement, bird nest protection, sustainable agriculture, and raising community awareness.

“Re-routing the power line in areas where it would otherwise go close to the sites where the Bengal Floricans breed is the most effective way of preventing or reducing the possibility of the Bengal Floricans being killed,” said Simon Mahood, WCS Cambodia’s Senior Technical Advisor.

“Bird flight deflectors, disks or spirals that make it easier for the birds to see the power line, could also be fitted along the wires to reduce the number of birds that would otherwise be killed,” he added.

The Bengal Florican’s conservation would not be possible without the support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, Mohammed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, Chester Zoo, North Star Science & Technology, Ford Motor Company, and the National Avian Research Centre−International Fund for Houbara Conservation.

The article was originally published on the Wildlife Conservation Society Cambodia website

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 (IUCN Member), the European Union, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan (IUCN State Member), the MacArthur Foundation and the World Bank.

IUCN is leading the second phase of CEPF's work in the Indo-Burma hotspot, working together with the Myanmar Environment Rehabilitation-conservation Network (MERN) and Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden (KFBG) to form the CEPF Regional Implementation Team (RIT).

 

 

Can you differentiate between antelopes of North Africa and the ones of the Arabian Peninsula?

08 March 2017
Gazella arabica. Photo: Tim Wacher/ZSL

New fact sheet to help conserve antelope species that occur naturally in North Africa and Arabia in order to preserve their genetic integrity and keep them apart.

Throughout time, antelopes have adapted to the most extreme desert environments in the world and have always been of great cultural importance in both regions. Although well known, close similarity between the smaller species of North Africa and Arabia has led to confusion. This fact sheet provides a summary of the antelope species that occur naturally in both regions and is aimed to help conservation initiatives preserve their genetic integrity and keep them apart.

Gazella cuvieri. Photo: Tim Wacher/ZSL11 species of antelopes occur in the region: five in the Arabian Peninsula and six in North Africa. The largest species occurring in both regions are both known and easily distinguishable (i.e. Arabian Oryx in Arabia and the Scimitar-horned Oryx in North Africa). The smaller ones however, share multiple similarities, such as similar habitats in each region and the same Arabic common names (i.e. Arabian Sand Gazelle across the Arabian Peninsula and Slender-horned Gazelle in North Africa) that make them hard to tell apart, even if they are all different species.

“Antelopes of North Africa and those of the Arabian Peninsula are distinct species that have evolved separately.This is why it is strongly recommended that all these gazelles are conserved and managed separately in order to maintain intact the regional biodiversity and individual character of both North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Therefore, species from both regions should neither be mixed nor diluted”, says David Mallon, co-chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission - Antelope Specialist Group (SSC-ASG).

“Gazelles are an important part of the natural and cultural heritage of these two regions, therefore it is extremely important to conserve them for future generations. This fact sheet aims at helping practitioners and protected areas managers when undertaking future conservation projects for these species”, says Violeta Barrios, expert from the IUCN Mediterranean Species Programme.

Many projects have been initiated to improve their conservation status, with a particular emphasis on wild populations in their natural habitat since they provide the best guarantee of long-term success. However, in situations where species have already become extinct in the wild, reintroductions may be the only option available. Several operations to reintroduce species to sites where they became extinct have already taken place and IUCN has published Guidelines on Reintroductions (2013) that should be followed in all these cases.

The fact sheet is available in English and French

For more information: Violeta Barrios

 

 

Climate change is hitting species hard – we should keep an eye on the most vulnerable

08 March 2017
Photo: © Jennifer Cachola CC BY-ND 2.0

Climate change is already affecting many threatened birds and mammals, with some species much more vulnerable to rising temperatures than others, according to a recent study co-authored by IUCN SSC Climate Change Specialist Group (IUCN SSC CCSG) members. To prevent further extinctions we need to keep a closer eye on the most vulnerable species – such as those with highly specialised diets – writes David Bickford from the IUCN SSC CCSG.

The study, Species’ traits influenced their response to recent climate change, looked at the effects of climate change on mammals and birds as documented in published literature – 70 studies covering 120 mammal species and 66 reporting on 569 bird species. In particular, it analysed mammal and bird species already threatened with extinction – in the Vulnerable, Endangered, or Critically Endangered categories of The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™.

It found that almost half (47%) of threatened land mammals and almost a quarter (23.4%) of all threatened birds may already have been negatively impacted by climate change. These findings are sobering, especially given that the impacts of climate change are not likely to abate, nor are species likely to adapt to them in realistic ecological time scales.

Not all species are equal in the face of climate change, however – some birds and mammals are more vulnerable than others, the study found. Mammals with more specialised diets are more likely to suffer from the consequences of climate change, for example. Similarly, species inhabiting high altitudes or colder parts of the world have less of a chance to move to cooler areas.

To ensure we are doing all that we can to prevent further extinctions we must concentrate our monitoring efforts on these most vulnerable species. Perhaps more importantly, we need studies that assess the impact of climate change for taxa and regions that are poorly studied, such as the centres of biodiversity closer to the equator.

Primates, elephants and marsupials – including kangaroos, wallabies and koalas – are the mammal species groups found to be most threatened by a changing climate. The slow reproductive rates of primates and elephants further increase their vulnerability. As for birds, aquatic species – including shorebirds, ducks and geese – were found to be particularly affected by rising temperatures, which lead to habitat loss and fragmentation as well as harmful algal blooms.

Some species have actually had positive responses to climate change so far, such as increasing populations or expanding ranges. Rodents and insectivores are two such groups of mammals, found to have benefited from recent climatic changes. But we do not know what the long-term consequences will be, nor do we fully understand the overall effects of climate change on entire ecosystems. And while beneficial effects of climate change for some species from the temperate zone have been observed, the general trend across the range of endangered species in this study is not good by any measure.

There are ecological complexities that make generalisations inaccurate at large scales. Indeed, responses to climate change are not homogenous across all living organisms. However, these kinds of uncertainties should not prevent us from using the evidence we do have to prevent more extinctions from climate change and other anthropogenic factors – and that evidence is becoming increasingly alarming.

This article first appeared on the IUCN Huffington Post blog.

 

 

Future updates of The IUCN Red List

07 March 2017

Do you want to submit assessments for publication on The IUCN Red List but you don't know when the next update will happen? There is now a new page in the Resources section of the web site that tells you when the next updates will happen: see Planned IUCN Red List Updates.

Along with a summary of the Red List updates planned for later this year, this page has some important information regarding submissions to The IUCN Red List and how maximise your chances of getting assessments published on the Red List. This page will be updated each year to keep web site users and Red List assessors informed of the timelines for future IUCN Red List updates.

» News Archives