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A Comprehensive Analysis of Biodiversity in the Drylands is Released

09/09/2012. Conserving Dryland Biodiversity, the first comprehensive analysis of the plant and animal species as well as human populations of  the drylands of the world was launched today at the World Conservation Congress taking place in Jeju, South Korea.

The publication presents a new analysis of the drylands biodiversity. Crucially, it shows how to conserve biodiversity, while protecting the land from degradation and improving the livelihoods of the rural communities that live and directly depend on the land.

Conserving Dryland Biodiversity is co-published by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), United Nations Environment Programme-World Conservation Monitoring Center (UNEP-WCMC) and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

The value of the book cannot be overstated given the potential ecosystem impacts that would arise from a wanton loss of dryland biodiversity and the social, human and economic costs that follow community-biodiversity conflicts.

In July, a Masai community in southern Kenya went on a lion-killing rampage due to a perception that lion conservation was prioritized over their lives. The locals were angered not by the action of conservation, but rather, the comparably slow response rate by conservationists when a local is attacked by an animal compared to when an animal is killed by the locals.

Conserving Dryland Biodiversity shows practical choices on how to balance such conservation and development goals. It shows the huge potential in traditional land-use and pastoral practices to balance these demands.

For instance, “mobile pastoralists in many dryland regions maintain herding strategies that mimic nature, thereby promoting ecosystem functions that not only underpin their livelihood but also provide global environmental benefits like carbon sequestration and species conservation,” the book states.

According to Mr. Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary, UN Convention to Combat Desertification, “the harsh nature of the drylands has placed their populations at the forefront of conserving both soil and plant biodiversity using innovative means, but with little recognition.”

“In the Sahel, for instance, some small-holder land users practice farmer-managed natural regeneration and agro-forestry techniques that not only improve land productivity and strengthen resilience, but also provide family income and numerous environmental benefits,” he adds.

The significance of the drylands for the global community is either highly undervalued or perceived from very particularistic lenses. Some people reify drylands as places of leisure, teeming as they do with wildlife and birds, or for sports. Others view them as wastelands with little investment value.

The value of drylands goes beyond their untapped natural wealth, such as hunting down game and bio-prospecting. And the myth of drylands as the stocking zones for meat and game production is deconstructed in the book.

The book highlights how a majority of the rural communities and small-scale producers that depend directly on the land have a more holistic view because of their multiple uses of the land; from water, to fuelwood, medicines, pasture, and food.

Through rich data, Conserving Dryland Biodiversity reveals how these vast, mostly neglected areas, service humanity and other ecosystems.

For instance, globally, 10,000 mammals, birds and amphibian species can be found in the drylands. These include 64% of all birds, 55% of mammals and 25% of amphibians. Half of the world’s livestock is also in the drylands. About 30% of the total area of sites of important biodiversity is in the drylands.

Drylands are also reservoirs of important genetic material. At least 30% of the plants being cultivated and many of the livestock breeds have come from the drylands. More than a quarter of the world’s 5,600 mammalian livestock breeds were developed in the drylands and 30% of the cultivated plant species originated from the drylands. Many of these are the crops feeding the world today.

But some of the dryland areas have come under significant human threat. Conservation International found that 8 of the world’s 25 hotspots of biodiversity loss are also in the drylands. The combination of competing needs and the lack of legislation and policies to balance these demands is producing disastrous effects and fuelling the community-wildlife conflicts.

With its focus on bridging the divide between meeting development and conservation needs through the use of effective local practices, Conserving Dryland Biodiversity is a useful tool for awareness raising among wildlife enthusiasts and development workers alike.

Download Conserving Dryland Biodiversity.

Picture: © De Faveri.

Established in 1994, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development issues to the land agenda. The UNCCD addresses specifically the arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, known as the drylands. The Convention’s 195 Parties are working to improve the living conditions in the drylands, to maintain and restore land and soil productivity, and to mitigate the effects of drought.

For more information contact:
Wagaki Mwangi
Public Information and Media Officer
UNCCD, Hermann-Ehlers-Str.10
53115 Bonn, Germany
Tel: +49-228-815 2820
Fax: +49-228-815 2899

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