Journal Articles

Soil conservation in the 21st century: why we need smart agricultural intensification

Gerard Govers, Roel Merckx, Bas van Wesemael, and Kristof Van Oost

Soil erosion severely threatens the soil resource and the sustainability of agriculture. After decades of research, this problem still persists, despite the fact that adequate technical solutions now exist for most situations. This begs the question as to why soil conservation is not more rapidly and more generally implemented. Studies show that the implementation of soil conservation measures depends on a multitude of factors but it is also clear that rapid change in agricultural systems only happens when a clear economic incentive is present for the farmer. Conservation measures are often more or less cost-neutral, which explains why they are often less generally adopted than expected. This needs to be accounted for when developing a strategy on how we may achieve effective soil conservation in the Global South, where agriculture will fundamentally change in the next century. In this paper we argue that smart intensification is a necessary component of such a strategy. Smart intensification will not only allow for soil conservation to be made more economical, but will also allow for significant gains to be made in terms of soil organic carbon storage, water efficiency and biodiversity, while at the same time lowering the overall erosion risk. While smart intensification as such will not lead to adequate soil conservation, it will facilitate it and, at the same time, allow for the farmers of the Global South to be offered a more viable future.

Published Date:

Mainstreaming Biodiversity: Conservation for the Twenty-First Century

Kent H. Redford, Brian J. Huntley, Dilys Roe, Tom Hammond, Mark Zimsky, Thomas E. Lovejoy, Gustavo A. B. da Fonseca, Carlos M. Rodriguez and Richard M. Cowling

Insufficient focused attention has been paid by the conservation community to conservation of biodiversity outside of protected areas. Biodiversity mainstreaming addresses this gap in global conservation practice by “embedding biodiversity considerations into policies, strategies and practices of key public and private actors that impact or rely on biodiversity, so that it is conserved, and sustainably used, both locally and globally” (Huntley and Redford, 2014). Biodiversity mainstreaming is designed to change those policies and practices that influence land uses outside of protected areas as well as to change economic and development decision-making by demonstrating the importance of conserving biodiversity for achieving development outcomes. The practice of mainstreaming is tied to implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity and is practiced with billions of dollars of investment by development agencies, national government agencies, and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and its implementing organizations as well as other donors. It is essential for the long-term survival of biodiversity inside and outside protected areas. However, it is virtually unheard of in the main conservation science field. This must change so as to bring careful documentation, analysis, monitoring, publishing, and improvement of practices—all things that conservation science should provide as partners to practitioners of biodiversity mainstreaming. The situation is ripe for informed coordination and consolidation and creation of a science-driven field of biodiversity mainstreaming.

Published Date:

Use of the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) to Assess Land Degradation at Multiple Scales: Current Status, Future Trends, and Practical Considerations

Genesis T. Yengoh, David Dent, Lennart Olsson, Anna E. Tengberg, and Compton J. Tucker III

The global demand for food is rising steeply as a result of burgeoning population, shifting dietary preferences, and food wastage, while increasing demands for renewable energy are competing with food production (Hubert et al. 2010). In 2009, the FAO estimated that we must increase the global food production by 70 % to meet demands in 2050 (FAO 2009). But this figure is questioned and may be an underestimate, which further underlines the urgency of global food provisioning (Tilman 2010 ; Tilman et al. 2002), particularly in the light of the revised World Population Prospects 2012 predicting significantly higher population increase than earlier projections, especially for many countries in sub-Saharan Africa (UN 2013). Further, accelerating climate change is projected to have severe impacts on crop productivity over large parts of the globe (Porter et al. 2014 ). The combination of increasing water scarcity, as a result of climate warming, and increasing competition across sectors is likely to cause dramatic situations in terms of food and water security in many regions (Strzepek and Boehlert 2010).

At the same time “business as usual is not an option.” This was the stern message from the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology (IAASTD) when it was presented by its chairman Bob Watson in 2008. By this he meant that agriculture does not deliver what we need—food security for all—instead it undermines the global environment in terms of land degradation; greenhouse gas emissions; pollution of soils, rivers, lakes, and oceans; and reducing biodiversity (Foley et al. 2011). The threat to food security represents a planetary emergency that demands a variety of creative solutions and policies at global, regional, and local levels. One of the most urgent responses to this situation must be measures to stop and reverse land degradation. But such solutions are currently hampered by the lack of reliable data as well as methods for collecting such data. This report is a review of the state of the art of remote sensing techniques for assessing land degradation and improvements.

Visit the following link for further information about the book:

Published Date:

Good news from the South: Biodiversity mainstreaming - A paradigm shift in conservation?

BJ Huntley

Bad governance stifles everything' said ecologist Richard Cowling, a pioneer in promoting mainstreaming approaches to conserving biodiversity. Cowling was addressing an international workshop convened in Cape Town in October 2013 to review progress in the impressive body of 327 projects in 135 countries supported since the late 1990s by the Global Environment Facility (GEF). With over USD1.6 billion invested by the GEF, and USD5.6 billion in co-financing by partners, the mainstreaming agenda is one of the largest biodiversity initiatives on record. A whopping 48% of these funds went to the 10 countries that hold most of the world's biodiversity treasure troves - Brazil, India, China, Mexico, South Africa, Colombia, Russian Federation, Indonesia, Vietnam and Argentina.

The obvious reciprocal to bad governance - good governance - certainly holds true, and is demonstrated by the success of mainstreaming projects in post-apartheid South Africa and in that icon of democratic good governance, Costa Rica. These two countries lead the world in innovative approaches to biodiversity conservation, most especially in moving from the traditional 'protected areas' model to an integrated landscape paradigm. The emerging trends and the challenges to the successful implementation of mainstreaming are considered here.

View article

Published Date:

Human well-being impacts of terrestrial protected areas

Andrew S Pullin, Mukdarut Bangpan, Sarah Dalrymple, Kelly Dickson, Neal R Haddaway, John R Healey, Hanan Hauari, Neal Hockley, Julia P G Jones, Teri Knight, Carol Vigurs, and Sandy Oliver

Establishing Protected Areas (PAs) is among the most common conservation interventions. Protecting areas from the threats posed by human activity will by definition inhibit some human actions. However, adverse impacts could be balanced by maintaining ecosystem services or introducing new livelihood options. Consequently there is an ongoing debate on whether the net impact of PAs on human well-being at local or regional scales is positive or negative. We report here on a systematic review of evidence for impacts on human well-being arising from the establishment and maintenance of terrestrial PAs.

View article

Published Date:

Biodiversity and ecosystems for a planet under pressure- Transition to sustainability: interconnected challenges and solutions


We share this planet with millions of other species and varieties of life, and depend on ecosystems for all our basic needs. While current trends in biodiversity and ecosystem services are sharply and dangerously negative, the right actions, developed and implemented promptly, can restore a biologically rich and ecologically viable planet. This policy brief sets out the main challenges facing the world as we seek to protect and enhance our vital biodiversity and its human benefits. In addition, we suggest pathways that will lead us towards a more sustainable future.

View article

Published Date:

Does community forest management provide global environmental benefits and improve local welfare?

Diana E Bowler, Lisette M Buyung-Ali, John R Healey, Julia PG Jones, Teri M Knight, and Andrew S Pullin

Global financial donors have invested billions of dollars in "Sustainable Forest Management" to conserve forests and the ecosystem services they provide. A major contributing mechanism, community forest management (CFM), aims to provide global environmental benefits (reduce deforestation, maintain biodiversity), while also improving local human welfare (alleviate poverty). We have systematically reviewed available evidence of CFM effectiveness and consider the implications of our findings for future investment in CFM programs. There is evidence of CFM being associated with greater tree density and basal area but not with other indicators of global environmental benefits. We found no data on local human welfare amenable to meta-analysis. Poor study design, variable reporting of study methodology or context, and lack of common indicators make evidence synthesis difficult. Given the policy interest in and the planned donor expenditure on CFM, evaluation must be improved so that informed decisions can be made about appropriate investment in this approach.

View article

Published Date: