Worldwide Environmental Progress In 2016

February 3, 2017

In this day and age, it seems the only thing environmental being discussed is the weather, global warming, and oil pipelines. It can become very distracting, not to mention concerning, when we are all basically scared into thinking that earth has reached its breaking point.

To ease those fears here are 10 conservation stories via the Huffington Post, reminding us that there are changes being made in the right direction as well. These stories show how communities, governments and organizations are providing solutions that are reversing the loss of biodiversity and the related ecological services that nature provides.

Gullchucks Estuary, BC (Photo by Tim Ennis/NCC)

1. Conserving the world’s largest temperate rainforest

In 2016, the Province of British Columbia, First Nations, environmental groups and the forest industry announced increased protection of BC’s 64,000-square-kilometre Great Bear Rainforest. This historic agreement will protect 85 per cent of it from commercial logging and will also protect 2,500 salmon runs, trees that reach 90 metres in height and the rare, white Kermode black bear, also known as the spirit bear.

2. Big steps for global marine conservation

There is now overwhelming evidence that Marine Protected Areas not only help protect biodiversity, but also fish stocks.

In 2016, the Ross Sea in Antarctica became the world’s largest Marine Protected Area at 1.55 million square kilometres, with more than 80 per cent of the reserve under the strictest form of marine protection. In addition, at the IUCN World Conservation Congress, Motion 53, which agrees to a new target of protecting 30 per cent of the world’s oceans by 2030, was passed.

3. Canada starting to make progress in Marine Protected Areas

With Canada’s goal of protecting 10 per cent of its marine and coastal areas by 2020, there has been some important progress in designating key sites. In 2016, the 2,400-square-kilometre Anguniaqvia Niqiqyuam Marine Protected Area in the Beaufort Sea was established and several new proposed sites have been announced.

4. Edging closer to protecting 17 per cent of land and inland water areas

Canada’s progress in protecting at least 17 per cent of its land an inland waters by 2020 has been steady, increasing from 9.6 per cent in 2010 to 10.6 per cent at the end of 2015. Globally, 14.7 per cent of land and inland waters has been protected, and if current trends continue, the 17 per cent milestone should be reached.

Piping plover (Photo by Dave Hawkins)

5. Pandas and plovers: proof we can save endangered species

Globally, there are more than 24,000 species that are on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. In Canada, the number of species assessed in risk categories by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada has grown by over 200 in the last decade.

Identifying species that are at greatest risk of extinction can lead to action.

In 2016, the giant panda was down-listed from endangered to vulnerable by the IUCN.

Here in Canada, the past year saw the continued recovery of the endangered piping plover to its historic nesting sites in Manitoba and on Lake Ontario.

6. Finding ways for people and large carnivores to coexist

In a world where 75 per cent of the land area is experiencing human pressures, one of the biggest challenges we have is maintaining habitat for animals that need large spaces to survive.

With habitat protection, community support and, in some cases, active reintroduction, parts of the world are seeing a “rewilding,” with the return of large animals. From black bears in the U.S. southwest, to wolves in western Europe and California, to the Persian leopard in the Caucasus region, this year we witnessed a number of examples of how conservation efforts can restore populations of large carnivores.

Darkwoods, BC (Photo by Bruce Kirby)

7. Canadian sustainability goals

This year, Canada released the 2016-2019 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy, which presents 13 goals that are a Canadian reflection of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The strategy includes goals related to climate change, oceans, freshwater, wildlife and connecting Canadians with nature, and are supported by new reporting on environmental indicators.

8. Climate change agreements

Just as issues such as acid rain or the hole in the ozone layer required multilateral agreements, climate change is going to need an unparalleled level of cooperation, in addition to individual commitments, to solve this global issue.

In 2016, Canada signed the Paris Agreement and developed a pan-Canadian agreement on climate change. In addition to addressing the need to reduce emissions, the agreement also recognizes the importance of protecting wetlands, forests and grasslands as natural carbon sinks.

In Canada in 2016, leaders from industry, conservation organizations (including the Nature Conservancy of Canada) and other members of the Smart Prosperity coalition showed their support for continued action on climate change and the transition to a low carbon economy.

9. Canada’s largest ecosystem restoration project gets approved

Lake Ontario is the only Great Lake whose water level is controlled by damming, which generates large amounts of hydro power, but unfortunately has changed the annual and long-term water-level cycles of the lake, impacting its wetlands and other coastal habitats.

The Lake Ontario Biodiversity Conservation Strategy that was developed by the Nature Conservancy of Canada and partners in 2009 identified this as one of the most urgent threats to the lake’s species and habitats. In 2016, Canada and the U.S. agreed to adopt Plan 2014, which aims to restore the natural flows and water levels of Lake Ontario and the upper St. Lawrence River. This will restore more than 64,200 acres (26,000 hectares) of coastal wetlands and increase available habitat for several species at risk.

Swift fox (Photo by Karol Dabbs)

10. Guidelines to identifying Key Biodiversity Areas

In 2016, the IUCN released guidelines to identify Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs), which provide a common global framework to identify important places for nature, based on: threatened species and ecosystems, geographically restricted biodiversity, ecological integrity, important biological processes and irreplaceability.

The World Database on Key Biodiversity Areas was also launched to house and manage this information.

KBAs will provide an important tool to guide conservation and sustainable development in Canada and around the world.

This post originally appeared on the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s blog, Land Lines.

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