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LACCCB2018 - Strengthening conservation connections between the Caribbean and the Americas

The 1st Latin America and Caribbean Congress for Conservation Biology brought together experts who shared information on the conservation efforts that are currently being carried out in the region.

The conservation of biodiversity and natural ecosystems is an determinant factor for natural balance at a global level, as well as a cornerstone for environmental, economic and social human welfare. Under the theme "Strengthening conservation connections between the Caribbean and the Americas," the 1st Latin America and Caribbean Congress for Conservation Biology - which took place July 25-27 at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago - sought to address current challenges in unsustainable land use. This event brought together conservation professionals from countries throughout the region to present new findings, initiatives, methods, tools and opportunities for collaboration in science and practice of conservation.

Group photo of some LACCCB 2018 participants

More than 200 participants attended the congress and discussed a wide range of topics at the event’s  seven symposia, 11 workshops, and three plenary talks. Topics varied from the communication between scientists, stakeholders and policymakers to issues related to the role of education in conservation and the initiatives related to the 3rd International Year of the Reefs in Latin America and the Caribbean, among others. Abstracts of all the presentations can be found on the LACCCB 2018 official website.

Of particular interest was the  “An insight to the Orinoco Mining Arc: It’s implications for Venezuela and the Eastern Caribbean” symposium, which presented updated information on the largest mining project in the region (covering approximately 112 square kilometers), as well as its social and environmental implications. Data revealed severe deforestation, soil erosion and water pollution in the area (approximately 12% of the surface of Venezuela and a quarter of the Venezuelan Amazon, including at least 24 Indigenous Peoples), as well as evidence of organized crime activities and violations of human rights.

Within the symposium’s framework, IUCN Red List of Ecosystems team member José Rafael Ferrer presented on "Risk of ecosystem collapse under different scenarios of management as a measure of conservation opportunities and challenges". He analyzed three scenarios based on the study of deforestation estimates between 2000 and 2015 for the entire Venezuelan territory (adjusting a model that relates the rate of deforestation with different layers of anthropogenic pressures and land uses) and the projection of the deforestation rate within the area of ​​the mining arc (based on the results of three forest units evaluated) over the next 35 years. The first scenario referred to conditions similar to the current ones (reference scenario), another dealt with what would happen if the mining activity, the population density and the infrastructure of the area continue to grow without any regulation (pessimistic scenario). The last exposed the results of a similar increase in the variables but with the implementation of control and mitigation measures (optimistic scenario).

José Rafael Ferrer presenting "Risk of ecosystem collapse under different scenarios of management as a measure of conservation opportunities and challenges"

Through the evaluation of the three forested units (Humid Forest of Central Guiana, Humid Forest of Eastern Guyana and Orinoquian Humid Forest) and the use of RLE’s ecosystem risk assessment methodology, an increase in deforestation was predicted in all scenarios, with greater deforestation in the pessimistic scenario and similar values ​​between the optimistic scenario and the reference scenario. One of the evaluated units (Orinoquian Humid Forest) presented by Ferrer, for example, could be classified as Vulnerable in the pessimistic scenario but was classified in a lower risk category (Near Threatened) in the optimistic scenario. In general, the presentation successfully highlighted the importance of control and mitigation measures to counteract negative effects of future development plans, as well as the need to plan conservation measures that focus on the most threatened elements within this zone of mining development.

There is sufficient information to carry out a responsible planning of socio-economic development activities in the area of the Orinoco mining arch without compromising the present and future value of biodiversity and ecological services in the region, but an expanded public consultation is needed that incorporates the opinions of academic sectors, communities, and civil society to achieve these objectives

– José Rafael Ferrer. Member of the Venezuelan Ecology Society and the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems.

Being made newly aware of the environmental and social liabilities for Venezuela, the eastern Caribbean and the north-western regions of South America, participants expressed concern about the lack of transparency, the lack of regulation and the lack of management and mitigation plans in relation to these ongoing activities, through the Conference Statement on the Orinoco Mining Arc. This statement, presented at the closing of the LACCCB on July 27, called "the attention of the international community" and was approved unanimously by all attendees.

“Esta declaración abierta es una carta abierta para denunciar un escenario muy grave que nos incumbe a nosotros como biólogos especializados en conservación, porque más allá de una situación horrorosa de derechos humanos, existe un impacto ambiental que va a llevar mucho tiempo revertir”

– Anthony Giordano. Presidente de la sección de América Latina y el Caribe de la Sociedad de Biología de la Conservación y director de la organización Species.

 

Written by: Clara Gómez

Style and format: Clara Gómez y Lila García

Translation: Clara Gómez

Provita Aug 15, 2018

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