What wildlife conservation has to do with the climate crisis: resilience

As COP26 draws to a close and the world tries to take a (literal) temperature check, one thing is for certain: “climate change is widespread, rapid, and intensifying”.1

We also know that any system, natural or not, with greater diversity is better at responding to change. The Dasgupta Review recently explained this principle: “Just as diversity within a portfolio of financial assets reduces risk and uncertainty, so biodiversity within a portfolio of natural assets increases nature’s resilience to shocks, reducing the risks to nature’s services.”2 These are the very same ecosystem services that have been valued at US$33 trillion annually (for comparison, global gross national product total is around US$18 trillion per year).3

Resilient people are going to need resilient nature.

By investing in humanity’s life support system, we also stand to gain, not just survive. For example, stopping the destruction of – and restoring – natural ecosystems could create 350m jobs by 2030 and generate a $10tn increase in wealth.4 And we could be happier, too: 73% of UK adults surveyed by YouGov poll said that connecting with nature has been important in terms of managing their mental health during the pandemic.

WFN is channelling support from the UK to solutions in the Global South where people, plants and wildlife, none of them responsible for climate change, are facing the fallout. These are two examples of many Whitley Award winners making a positive impact already:

Josia Razafindramanana: climate resilient agriculture in madagascar

Whitley Award winner Josia Razafindramanana is implementing climate resilient agriculture in Madagascar

This year, Madagascar has been on the brink of the world’s first “climate change famine”.  With rainfall reducing and land surface temperatures increasing, freshwater is in short supply and crops are failing. The UN World Food Programme has confirmed that “These are famine-like conditions and they’re being driven by climate not conflict”.5 Indeed, Chatham House’s 2021 Climate Change Risk Assessment warns that “the rise of pests and diseases, combined with heatwaves and drought, will likely drive unprecedented crop failure, food insecurity and migration” around the world in the coming years.6

Josia Razafindramanana is using nature-based solutions funding from WFN to implement climate resilient agriculture across 17 villages in the northwest of the island. Better irrigation systems and seasonal crops will improve food security and farmers’ livelihoods.

Whitley Award winner Josia Razafindramanana is implementing climate resilient agriculture in Madagascar

She and her team will also establish conservation agreements to protect the remaining pockets of tropical dry and gallery forests: internationally undervalued ecosystems despite their high rates of carbon capture, staggering biodiversity and vital freshwater rivers, lakes and wetlands. Josia aims to restore 30 ha of forest, including along riverbanks, as well as increasing local patrols by 90% to deter logging and monitor endemic wildlife like the dancing lemur.

Whitley Award winner Josia Razafindramanana is conserving the dancing lemur in Madagascar

Ximena Velez-Liendo: nature positive food in bolivia

The inter-Andean dry forest is a critically endangered ecosystem. The 6% that remains still holds astonishing biodiversity including spectacled bears, and is home to some of the most economically-vulnerable communities in Bolivia.

Whitley Award winner Ximena Velez-Liendo is conserving the Andean bear in Bolivia

Currently, increasing levels of cattle ranching are driving human-carnivore conflict, as well as degrading forests, eroding soils and releasing carbon. Ranching also offers a bad return on investment for communities, requiring 20 times more land, water, time and resource in this landscape than in the lowlands.

Ximena Velez-Liendo is working with local people to reduce the number of cattle by 15% over two years, replacing ranching with nature-positive livelihoods such as beekeeping. Together, they are creating a Productive Protected Landscape (PPL) – a land management framework integrating
biodiversity conservation, a nature-positive economy and ecosystem restoration.

Whitley Award winner Whitley Award winner Ximena Velez-Liendo is conserving the Andean bear in Bolivia

This is a replicable, ecologically-sound, and socially-just model. By approaching sustainable levels of livestock farming as a conservation solution, rather than problem, Ximena can quickly create space for wildlife, habitats and people to flourish.

Whitley Award winner Ximena Velez-Liendo is conserving the Bolivian mountains

If you are able to do so, you can support conservationists like Josia and Ximena through WFN. Click here to donate. Thank you.

4: Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, Executive Secretary of the UN Convention on Biology Diversity