July 8, 2014.

Closing Ceremony of Edition 39 of the RESERVA Training Course on Natural Resources Conservation

Climate change and NPA: Where should we focus?
Was the name of the presentation given by Dr. Enrique Martínez Meyer from UNAM during the closing ceremony of Edition 39 of the RESERVA Training Course on Natural Resources Conservation, carried out by DUMAC and the School of Biologic and Agricultural Sciences in UADY on June 30, 2014 in the Auditorium in this studying institution. In the same event, the RESERVA participants submitted the results of their academic exercises and received the reports of the course carried out from April 29 thru June 30, 2014, where 16 professionals from 10 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean were trained.

The RESERVA Training Program celebrates its 25th anniversary promoting the conservation of natural resources. With Edition 39, there have been 468 individuals trained directly from more than 200 organizations from 23 countries, benefiting more than 900 natural protected areas in the Latin American region. In the latest 8 years, the trained personnel have developed 57 courses focused on 1,167 individuals doubling the efforts for knowledge transfer and communication and improving the professional capabilities of the people working in the organizations linked with natural resources preservation.

In the closing ceremony, Dr. Enrique Martínez Meyer explained:  - climate changes are not extraordinary events in the history of the Earth; in fact, they are the opposite, a constant. These events have shaped - disassembling and assembling - the life of the planet along its history; they have been the most important factor in the evolutional trajectory of the species causing changes in direction in the "ecological order" of life. It is not exaggerated to say that we, human beings, are here as a consequence of the climate changes occurred in these last 65 million years.

Currently we are living a climate change event marked by global warming which has unique characteristics; for example, its origin is the result of the activities of only one species: ours. In spite of this, the lessons from history are very valuable in order to understand how species have been able or not to successfully respond to climate changes.

Thus, we know that previous climate changes with a comparable direction and magnitude as the one we are experiencing have had profound effects in the planet; for example, the snow and vegetation line in the mountains can increase or decrease great distances, the level of the sea changes so much that the shape of the continents and their connectivity is profoundly altered, vegetation in one location may change its temperate zone - such as an oak forest - to tropical, as a jungle. This sets a huge challenge for natural resources conservation: what part of biodiversity should we protect and how, to ensure continuity of life processes and supply of goods and services to human societies?

In this sense, the natural protected areas are the most important biological conservation instrument in our times. Its objective is providing protection to zones which have unique natural conditions which give them great biological, cultural, scenic and economic value through regulating and restricting the activities which can harm their natural resources. Great parts of the natural protected areas were declared as such to safeguard certain natural elements, such as a particularly rich or unique biodiversity, or an emblematic species, fragile or important for society. However, the climate change event we are currently undergoing can affect the natural elements which originated the establishment of a protected area; thus the question arises: how can we anticipate and what strategies must we adopt in order to give effective protection to biodiversity in a changing world?

Scientific research developed in the world and in México around biology of climate change searches to address these questions. There are no concluding responses yet, but there is one thing that is clear: the current protection schemes are insufficient because climate change is an additional factor in environmental change attempting against the functional stability of the planet.

We need to design and implement new models, different and supplementary to the current ones, that limit as little as possible the species response to environmental changes, or we would be condemning ourselves to losing great part of the natural patrimony which is the basis of our existence, stated the speaker.

According to the advance in the objectives for development of environmental sustainability of the Millennium in Latin America and the Caribbean, carbon dioxide emissions due to fossil fuel burning and cement production (included in official statistics), has increased in a sustained manner, trend that will remain in the region, which grows demographically and economically generating an increase in the change of land usage and deforestation in the region.1

Although there are no series of official data for emissions due to land usage change, estimates consider it corresponds to a significant proportion of regional carbon dioxide emissions and that Latin America and the Caribbean generate more than 48% of the global emissions due to change in the use of land. These data are related to the trend toward reduction of forest coverage which goes from 49.1% in 1990 to 45.6% in 2005. Nevertheless, the data for the same region in regards to increase in the surface of land and marine protected areas as a proportion of territory show an increase of 9.5% in 1990 to 21.1% in 2008. 1

So, what is happening? It is discussed that this last indicator (increase of natural areas protected) isolated, does not give a complete response to the problem. In order to achieve a reduction in biodiversity loss, a better management of protected areas and more resources are necessary. The protected area has to be representative of biomes and ecosystems in order to be efficient as a biodiversity conservation mechanism. In addition to the protected areas, other conservation techniques must be used and change the national and international financial and regulatory structures so they lead to internalize the social and environmental cost of the biodiversity loss or its conservation benefits.1

Proportion (%) of NPA in regards to the one in Latin American and the Caribbean territory

In this sense, one of the corollary of the RESERVA Training Program is that protected areas must be evaluated in order to learn if they are meeting the objectives for which they were created efficiently; As well as if professionals are being trained with the technical tools for the creation of new conservation areas with a less static view of conservation and being able to include processes such as climate change and its effects; for example, the modification of wintering sites for migratory birds.

Despite decades of discussion of the ways to implement NPA in Latin America, biodiversity monitoring and its management processes continue being a challenge due to the lack of protocol generation and methods for data gathering for decision making.

In order to achieve biodiversity conservation effectively, monitoring of the political and economic micro regional aspects are seldom considered, usually the monitoring processes are planned only for the biological components on temporary and spatial scales resulting incomplete to formulate efficient conservation plans.

In addition, the participation of the interested parties (academicians, administrators, natural and political resources users) in planning processes may not be able to interpret the information generated in these assessments and monitoring, thus it is very common that the objectives established for biodiversity conservation are planned in an imprecise and undetermined manner.

It is fundamental for the next human resources administrators to consider monitoring as a permanent information source which allows them to reduce uncertainty in decision making and as a basis in the implementation of conservation actions, creating the information generated, the best argument for conflict solving instead of the simple mediation of interests. 

In this sense, the participants of RESERVA Training Program, as part of their academic exercises, give follow-up to usage and implementation ways with people in the Tankuché community in the zone of influence of the Ría Celestún Biosphere Reserve. Based on the information gathered, there are proposals provided to the fostering organizations and the users in order to offer sustainable development alternatives within the conceptual framework of the community land use.

Likewise, the participants record information regarding education, health, fishing conflicts, among others, in the communities at Ría Celestún Biosphere Reserve (Isla Arena and Celestún), in order to analyze and suggest spaces and ways for social development and biodiversity conservation. These works are a fundamental part of the training model which has knowledge and expertise exchange as a constant among academicians and natural resources administrators.

Participants in Edition 39 of the RESERVA Program

David E. Alonzo Parra
Programa de Capacitación RESERVA
Ducks Unlimited de México, A.C




Programa Internacional para el Reporte de Anillos RESERVA Curso de Capacitación John E. Walker Society