2010 International Year of Biodiversity

Article, 04 December 2011

The United Nations has declared 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity. It’s a key reminder of how fundamental biodiversity is to the health of planetary systems as well as human prosperity and wellbeing — and a chance for all of us to learn more.

Biodiversity — the variety of all life forms, from genes up — is vital because diversity makes for healthy, stable ecosystems. From coral reefs to the Kalahari, these natural 'balancing acts' are intrinsically valuable. But beyond beauty and amenity, ecosystems also provide essential 'services' such as breathable air, clean water and fertile soils. Fisheries, agriculture, medicine and many traditions and ways of life all depend on biodiverse ecosystems.

Clearly, biodiversity is key not just to life on Earth, but to economies and cultures. And for the poor, who often depend directly on land and sea for subsistence, it is literally a lifeline.

The challenge, now and in the future, is that species are becoming extinct at an unprecedented rate — 100 times those of pre-human times. Conserving and sustainably using biodiversity is one of the most urgent tasks we face.

IIED has a large portfolio of biodiversity and poverty focused projects. With partner networks, the institute provides innovative solutions to biodiversity loss, poverty reduction and biodiversity-friendly practices at local, national and international level. The highlights that follow will give you some idea of the range and depth of IIED’s action on biodiversity.


Top stories

IIED Insights: Q&A with Krystyna Swiderska on the Nagoya Protocol

Last October, after 18 years of negotiations and more than 2 weeks of tense discussions in Nagoya, Japan, the world finally struck a deal on access to genetic resources and benefit sharing. The agreement — the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and Equitable Sharing of Benefits — was, for many developing countries, a pre-requisite to any broader biodiversity pact. Read more

What happened at Nagoya?

After tense negotiations, including a number of breakdowns, a protocol on ABS was finally agreed in the early hours of the final day, much to everyone’s amazement! This was thanks to some last minute compromises, creative use of ambiguous language, and determined mediation by the Japanese delegation. Read more

IIED at COP10: Conference of Parties to UN Convention on Biological Diversity

193 governments gathered in Nagoya, Japan for the 10th Conference of Parties (COP10) to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity last October. They were asked to adopt a new ten-year strategic plan to protect biodiversity and ensure that it is used in a sustainable way. Read more


1. Conservation and Poor People

Poverty and Conservation Learning Group (PCLG)Poverty and Conservation Learning Group (PCLG)
PCLG is a network of conservation, development and indigenous/local community rights organisations that are interested in sharing experience on linking conservation and poverty reduction and learning from each other. PCLG operates through a number of channels:

  • a website (www.povertyandconservation.info) which houses databases of organisations, initiatives, publications and case studies as well as information on relevant meetings and events
  • a monthly newsletter
  • Periodic meetings, side events and key international events and publications
  • Small grants to support members participation in key events and other activities

For more information contact Dilys Roe

Exploring the links between ape conservation and poverty reduction
With support from the Arcus Foundation, this project focuses on linking ape conservation with improved local livelihoods in sub-Saharan Africa. It has two key objectives: enhancing learning between conservation organisations to improve their effectiveness in addressing poverty reduction; and exploring how attention to biodiversity can be strengthened in current efforts to integrate environment and development at the national level. In particular we are looking at how synergies between forest governance, ape conservation and local livelihoods can be improved.

For more information contact Dilys Roe

Social Assessment of Protected Areas (SAPA)
SAPA is a joint initiative of IIED, Care International, UNEP-WCMC and the CEESP/WCPA Protected Areas, Equity and Livelihoods Taskforce of IUCN. The initiative arose in recognition of the lack of a generally standardised approach by which to qualify and quantify the impacts of protected areas – an essential prerequisite to taking the necessary steps to mitigate negative and enhance positive impacts, and at a policy level, developing a broader understanding of, and commitment to, addressing the concerns of indigenous and local communities and other relevant stakeholders. A review of social assessment methodologies for protected areas and other land use and resource management interventions such as REDD has been published in the Natural Resource Issues series:

Natural Resource Issues No. 22
Social assessment of conservation initiatives: A review of rapid methodologies

Kate Schreckenberg, Izabel Camargo, Katahdin Withnall, Colleen Corrigan, Phil Franks, Dilys Roe, Lea M. Scherl and Vanessa Richardson (published May 2010)

For more information contact Dilys Roe

Conservation and Human Rights Initiative
Over the last couple of years IIED, with consultant Nick Winer, have been working with the major international conservation organisations to develop a set of common human rights principles and an accountability mechanism to demonstrate adherence to these. A common framework of principles and implementation measures has been developed to which a number of the organizations have signed up, while others consult with their relevant constituencies. Organisations involved in this initiative include: Birdlife International, Conservation International, Fauna and Flora International, IUCN, The Nature Conservancy, Wetlands International, WWF, and the Wildlife Conservation Society. Further information, reports and presentations may be found on the project page.

 the need for international standardsConservation and human rights: the need for international standards
May 2010
Conservation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. In recent years, awareness has grown of the relationship of international conservation practice to indigenous peoples and local communities, and especially the links between conservation and human rights. The impacts protected areas can have on rural communities – such as evictions and lost access to natural resources – are now under particular scrutiny. 

Enhancing the evidence base
The links between conservation and poverty are widely debated and contested. Claims and counterclaims are often made on the basis of a limited evidence base that relies on context-specific case studies, metrics and indicators. IIED is working to clarify and strengthen the evidence base through a number of activities: A “Reader in Biodiversity Conservation and Poverty” has recently been published by Earthscan; an international symposium was organised with UNEP-WCMC and the African Wildlife Foundation and held at the Zoological Society of London at the end of April. This explored the current state of knowledge on biodiversity-poverty links and we are currently developing recommendations for future research needs as well as policy and practice priorities.

All the presentations and outputs from the symposium are on the PCLG website – www.povertyandconservation.info

The Earthscan Reader In Poverty And Biodiversity Conservation (earthscan Readers Series) Poverty And Biodiversity Conservation (Earthscan Reader Series) February 2010
The role and value of biodiversity conservation in supporting the livelihoods of poor people has been widely debated during the last two or three decades. The 'Reader' is an edited compilation of the most important previously-published material, which provides a guide to and commentary on the key literature on poverty-conservation linkages. The book will help readers, including both students and professionals, to locate current debates within their wider contexts. Read more... 

IIED has contributed to a recent book on Rights-based Approaches published by CIFOR

For more information contact Dilys Roe

2. Valuing biodiversity and financing conservation

Harnessing carbon finance to arrest deforestation: Saving the Javan rhinoceros
Funded by The Darwin Initiative, IIED works with local institutions to establish functioning and equitable forest carbon facilities that encourage the conservation of large mammals, particularly the critically endangered Javan rhinoceros. The scheme will look to compensate local villagers for preventing degradation and deforestation in and around Cat Tien National Park, Vietnam. By examining a range of incentive mechanisms and by ensuring empowerment of local communities, it is anticipated that encroachment of agriculture will be reduced and the rhinoceroses’ habitat protected.

Further information, reports and presentations may be found on the project page.

For more information contact Maryanne Grieg Gran

Paying local communities for ecosystem services: The Chimpanzee Conservation Corridor
Chimpanzees in Uganda are under threat as their habitat is lost to agriculture and human settlements. At the heart of this problem is the attitude of most farmers that chimpanzees and the conservation of forest habitats are a threat to their own livelihoods. IIED aims to demonstrate how an effective, equitable and financially sustainable payment scheme to compensate local landholders for conserving and restoring forest habitats in Hoima District can protect chimpanzee populations and other components of biodiversity.

For more information contact Maryanne Grieg-Gran

Sustainable tourism in the Srepok Wilderness, Cambodia
Elephants caught in the camera trapsA serious decline in species populations in the last few decades due to unsustainable harvesting and habitat loss has prompted urgent action from the Government, WWF, and other local partners to address this trend. In conjunction with IIED, these groups have identified high-value low-impact wildlife ecotourism as a means of securing the future of these species and their ecosystem through generating financing for conservation activities and supporting local livelihoods as well as ensuring the financial sustainability of the protected area. An earlier project successfully piloted community-based monitoring in the 3,500km2 Mondulkiri Protected Forest. Its success led to calls from the Cambodian government and NGOs for replication in other Protected Areas and activities are now expanding to cover 15,000km2 of globally important tropical dry forest habitat.  Read

Further information, reports and presentations may be found on the project page.

For more information contact Muyeye Chambwera

Biodiversity Offsets
Finding new sources of finance for biodiversity conservation and developing strategies that conserve endangered species and habitats while enhancing livelihoods for those people living closest to biodiversity is a major challenge. Voluntary biodiversity offsets is one approach with potential that is being explored by the Business and Biodiversity Offsets Programme (BBOP), a partnership of companies, governments, financial institutions and NGOs, including IIED. IIED’s Sustainable Markets Group has worked with BBOP to develop guidance for offset designers on grappling with the socioeconomic challenges underlying biodiversity offsets.

An issues paper on Stakeholder Participation sets out best practice on engaging with local communities. The Biodiversity Offset Cost Benefit Handbook explains how to use economic tools to analyse the biodiversity-related impacts of the project on indigenous peoples, local communities and other local stakeholders and compare them with the costs and benefits to these local stakeholders of the potential biodiversity offset packages.

For more information contact Maryanne Grieg-Gran

Mainstreaming Biodiversity
IIED has been working in close collaboration with the UNEP-UNDP Poverty-Environment Initiative to promote the mainstreaming of environmental issues into development policy and planning. Activities include the development of a “Sourcebook on Environmental Mainstreaming” and facilitating multi-stakeholder ‘learning and leadership groups’ to encourage greater recognition of all environmental aspects in national development policy and budgets.This work is being expanded to include a specific focus on biodiversity.

Project website: http://www.environmental-mainstreaming.org/sourcebook.html

Natural Resource Issues No. 14
Creating and Protecting Zambia's Wealth: Experience and next steps in environmental mainstreaming (Published July 2009)

Expert Meeting on Mainstreaming Biodiversity in Development Cooperation http://www.cbd.int/development/documents/

For more information contact Steve Bass


3. Local organisations and institutions

Traditional Knowledge and Biocultural Heritage
Protecting Community Rights over Traditional KnowledgeIIED works with indigenous and local communities to protect their rights over biocultural heritage - that is, interlinked knowledge, biodiversity, landscapes, cultural and spiritual values and customary laws, that are held collectively and transmitted from one generation to the next. The project aims to strengthen biocultural systems in order to enhance food and health security, reduce poverty, conserve biodiversity and enhance resilience and adaptation to climate change. It involves participatory action- research with communities in Peru, Panama, Kenya, India and China in areas of important bio-cultural diversity to develop local tools (bio-cultural protocols, registers, value addition etc), and inform national and international policy on traditional knowledge, genetic resources and farmers’ rights.

Key findings from phase 1 (2005-2009) are available to download and the issues are summarised in the Briefing Protecting traditional knowledge from the grassroots up

The project is funded by The Christensen Fund, and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). The partners are Asociacion ANDES (Peru), the Fundacion Dobbo Yala (Panama), the Centre for Chinese Agricultural Policy (CCAP, China), Ecoserve and Herbal and Folklore Research Centre (India), and Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI) and ICIPE (Kenya). For more information and outputs see the project page.

For more information contact Krystyna Swiderska

Community Based Natural Resource Management
IIED recently conducted a pan-African review of experience in community-based natural resource management. The outcome was an account drawing on multiple authors and a wide range of documented experiences from Southern, Eastern, Western and Central Africa. The review discusses the degree to which CBNRM has met objectives in poverty alleviation, economic development and nature conservation. Its conclusions include suggestions for strengthening CBNRM and addressing key challenges in the years ahead.

Natural Resource Issues No. 18
Community management of natural resources in Africa: Impacts, experiences and future directions 
Edited by Dilys Roe, Chris Sandbrook and Fred Nelson (published September 2009)

For more information contact Dilys Roe

Collaborative management of forests and wildlife in Vietnam
Biodiversity in and around the Bi Doup-Nui Ba National Park area, Vietnam, is threatened by local communities encroaching on the land as well as infra-structure and potentially uncontrolled tourism development. Through IIED, with funding from the Darwin Initiative, the project is taking steps to develop and implement co-management approaches to working with communities that succeed in providing incentives for sustainable landuse, including the use of tourism. The tourism activity also more directly addresses the problem of inappropriate tourism development, which is a major new threat to biodiversity in the park.Further information and reports can be found on the project website.

For more information contact Maryanne Grieg-Gran


4. Biodiversity and climate change

Biodiversity in National Adaptation Programmes of Action
In collaboration with RSPB and Birdlife InternationaI, IIED conducted an assessment in 2009 of the National Adaptation Programmes of Action developed by the world’s poorest countries to identify their urgent climate change adaptation needs under the UNFCCC process. Presented at COP 15, this review provided an indication of how much these countries recognise and prioritise the role that biodiversity, ecosystems and natural habitats play in helping people adapt to climate change

Does EbA Work? A review of the evidence on the effectiveness of ecosystem-based approaches to adaptation

IIED Briefing Paper
Natural Resilience: Healthy ecosystems as climate shock insurance
Hannah Reid, Joanna Phillips and Melanie Heath (December 2009)

Ecosystem-based approaches to adaptation have also recieved attention at the Fourth International Community-Based Adaptation to Climate Change conference and this is an area of work that IIED is planning to expand.

For more information contact Hannah Reid

Counting the cost of climate change in Namibia
Namibia’s natural legacy underpins much of the national bank balance — and also leaves it highly vulnerable to shifts in natural systems. IIED conducted research in 2007 on the economic value of natural resources in Namibia and on the impacts of climate change on this economic value and the country’s poorest people. The report found that climate change must be built into national policies and planning and that an additional strategy for dealing with displaced farmers and farm workers was needed.

IIED Briefing paper
Counting the cost of climate change in Namibia
Hannah Reid, James MacGregor, Linda Sahlén, Jesper Stage (December 2007)

For more information contact Hannah Reid

Biodiversity, livelihoods and climate change: Making the links
In a world where climate change is high on the political agenda other environmental problems run the risk of being overlooked. IIED has been among the forefront of organisations emphasising the linkages between climate change and biodiversity conservation, and the impacts of both on the livelihoods of the worlds poorest people. A series of briefings address this issue:

IIED Briefing Paper
Biodiversity, climate change and poverty: exploring the links
Hannah Reid and Krystyna Swiderska (February 2008)

IIED Briefing Papers
Climate, carbon, conservation and communities
Dilys Roe, Hannah Reid, Kit Vaughan, Emily Brickell, Jo Elliott (August 2007)

Sustainable Development Opinion Papers
Biodiversity, climate change and complexity: An opportunity for securing co-benefits?
Dilys Roe (October 2006)

For more information contact Hannah Reid


5. Agricultural Biodiversity

Sustaining Local Food Systems, agricultural biodiversity and livelihoods
Working with partners in India, Indonesia, Iran and Peru, IIED aims to analyse how and under what conditions decentralised governance, capacity building and participation by farmers can promote the adaptive management of agricultural biodiversity in the context of local food systems and livelihoods. This initiative directly involves farming and indigenous communities in regenerating biodiversity rich farming and locally controlled food systems. The biodiversity management strategies of these food producers are at the heart of local responses to climate change. These decentralised and farmer-led approaches are based on strengthening local organisations and the federations they form.

Project website: www.diversefoodsystems.org

For more information contact Michel Pimbert

Opportunities for farm seed conservation, breeding and production
The overall objective of ‘Farms Seed Opportunities’ is to contribute to the enlargement of the market for local varieties, thus enhancing the possibilities of conservation, by setting up a framework involving all relevant actors, focusing on the development of methodologies for breeding strategies, facilitating the marketing of seeds of landraces, conservation varieties and special ‘amateur’ varieties. "Marketing" must here be understood as a general term that includes production, use, exchange and selling.

Project web site: www.farmseed.net/home

For more information contact Michel Pimbert

Developing methods for assessing the contribution of pollination to sustainable horticultural production
Pollination services are a key example of ecosystem services that sustain agriculture and livelihoods. Pollinators are essential for orchard, horticultural and forage production, as well as the production of seeds for many root and fibre crops. Standard techniques for estimating the costs and benefits to farmers of pollinator-friendly practices require the establishment of a baseline, against which the effects of changing practices can be assessed. IIED is examining participatory approaches to generating these baseline and comparison information The overall aim of the project is to enable smallholder farmers in Ghana and Nepal to evaluate the costs and benefits of introducing pro-pollinator practices. For reports and updates see the project website.

For more information contact Maryanne Grieg-Gran

Farmer and citizens assessments of transgenic crops (GMOs) and biosafety regulations
The food sovereignty paradigm affirms the fundamental right of peoples to define their food and agricultural policies. This implies that food providers and consumers are directly involved in policy making and institutional choices. New forms of citizenship need to be explored along with methodological innovations in deliberative and inclusive processes (DIPs) to enhance citizen voice and agency in decision-making today.

For more information contact Michel Pimbert

Citizens reframing conservation policies for food and livelihood security
This action research allows citizens’ to assess, re-imagine and influence conservation policies and practice for humanized ecosystems and landscapes that are rich in ‘wild’ and domesticated agricultural biodiversity. New insights and policy recommendations emerge by creating safe spaces for citizens who have experienced censorship and marginalisation by mainstream conservation practice. See the project page.

For more information contact Michel Pimbert


6. Getting the message out - Advocacy, academia and the media

IIED lobbies for policy and practice change in biodiversity and conservation through participation in key meetings, events and policy fora. Increasingly IIED is working with the media to bring issues of concern to wider public attention

Biodiversity Media Alliance
Journalists worldwide now have a vital new resource to help them report on the world’s biodiversity, what its decline means for humanity, and how it can be tackled. The Biodiversity Media Alliance’s online network builds bridges between journalists and the information they need to tell this story. More than 700 biodiversity experts have already joined the network, including scientists, policymakers, non-governmental organisation staff and indigenous people from some the most biodiverse parts of our planet. This new partnership between the IIED, Internews and the International Union for Conservation of Nature aims to boost the quantity and quality of media coverage on biodiversity around the world.

See biodiversitymedia.ning.com

For more information contact Mike Shanahan


Adams et al. (inc. Roe) (2004) Biodiversity conservation and the eradication of poverty. Science, 306, 1146–1149.

Campbell, A., Clark, S., Coad, L., Miles, L., Bolt, K. & Roe, D. 2008. Protecting the future: Carbon, forests, protected areas and local livelihoods. Biodiversity 9(3&4): 117-121.

Reid, H. (2006) ‘Climatic change and biodiversity in Europe’ Conservation and Society 4(1): 84-101.

Roe, D and Walpole M (forthcoming) Whose Value Counts? Trade-offs between biodiversity conservation and poverty reduction In: Smith, Leader-Williams and Adams Trade-offs in Conservation. Conservation Science and Practice Series, Wiley-Blackwell, London

Roe, D and Elliott, J (2010) The Earthscan Reader in Poverty and Biodiversity Conservation. Earthscan, London.

Roe, D. (2008). The origins and evolution of the conservation-poverty debate: a review of key literature, events and policy processes. Oryx, 42(4), 491-503

Roe, D (2007) Protected Areas, Poverty, and Policy: A Review of Biodiversity and Protected Areas within National Poverty Reduction Strategies In Redford K and Fearn E (eds) Protected Areas and Livelihoods, WCS Working Paper no 32. Wildlife Conservation Society, New York

Roe, D. & Elliott, J. (2004) Poverty reduction and biodiversity conservation: rebuilding the bridges. Oryx, 38, 137–139. ...

Sachs J et al. (inc. Roe), (2009) Biodiversity Conservation and the Millennium Development Goals. Science 325, 1502-1503.

Siegele, L; Roe, D, Giuliani, A and Winer N (2009) Conservation and human rights—Who says what? A review of international law and policy In Campese J et al (eds) Rights Based Approaches: Exploring Issues and Opportunties for Conservation. CIFOR, Bogor


7. Earlier work on biodiversity

The project descriptions above provide a brief insight into our current portfolio of activities. Details about earlier IIED biodiversity work can be found by browsing the website for anything tagged biodiversity. Most of our projects are written up as publications that can be downloaded via our publications database.

The following publications series may also be of interest:

Biodiversity and Livelihoods
Evaluating Eden
Institutionalising Participation
Participatory Learning and Action (PLA)
Participation in Access and Benefit-Sharing Policy
Policy that Works for Sustainable Agriculture and Regenerating Rural Economies
Reclaiming Diversity and Citizenship
Wildlife and Development

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