Efforts to protect biodiversity are now focusing less on preserving pristine areas and more on finding room for wildlife on the margins of human development. As urban areas keep expanding, it is increasingly the only way to allow species to survive.
BY RICHARD CONNIFF • JANUARY 3, 2018
“One morning not long ago, in the southern Indian state of Karnataka, I traveled with a Wildlife Conservation Society biologist on a switchback route up and over the high ridge of the Western Ghats. Our itinerary loosely followed the corridor connecting Bhadra Tiger Reserve with Kudremakh National Park 30 miles to the south.
In places, we passed beautiful shade coffee plantations, with an understory of coffee plants, and pepper vines — a second cash crop — twining up the trunks of the shade trees. Coffee plantations managed in this fashion, connected to surviving patches of natural forest, “provide continuous camouflage for the predators,” — especially tigers moving through by night, my guide explained, and wildlife conflict was minimal. Elsewhere, though, the corridor narrowed to a thread winding past sprawling villages, and conservationists played a double game, part handholding to help people live with large predators on their doorsteps, part legal combat to keep economic interests from nibbling into the wildlife corridor from both sides. It was a microcosm of how wildlife hangs on these days, not just in India, but almost everywhere in the world.
For conservationists, protecting biodiversity has in recent years become much less about securing new protected areas in pristine habitat and more about making room for wildlife on the margins of our own urbanized existence. Conservation now often means modifying human landscapes to do double-duty as wildlife habitat — or, more accurately, to continue functioning for wildlife even as humans colonize them for their homes, highways, and farms. There is simply no place else for animals to live.
The ambition to create new protected areas still persists, of course. National parks, wildlife refuges, and other protected areas remain essential, especially for species that do not adapt well to human-dominated landscapes. The 168 signatory nations to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) have acknowledged as much, at least on paper, committing to extend protected area coverage to 17 percent of their land area by 2020. But getting there has proved difficult. Coverage by national parks and other terrestrial protected areas has remained stuck for the past few years at about 15 percent worldwide, well short of CBD commitments, much less E.O. Wilson’s grander vision of “half-Earth” set aside for nature.”
The article above came From Kathleen Schomaker, Executive Director of Gray Is Green.
Richard Conniff is one of my favorite conservation writers–articulate and pithy, a creative thinker. I like his approach to challenging us urban dwellers to work with our city spaces as conservation habitats–widely accessible conservation efforts!
Give it a go…