More than 20 speakers and nearly 200 attendees made history last week as participants in the first-of-its-kind gathering to share knowledge for making transportation infrastructure more sustainable across Asia. As many countries in the region expand their networks of roads, rails, and other modes of transportation, such development can provide vast economic and social benefits but also present challenges to nature conservation and local communities. Therefore, on December 16-17, 2021, the 1st Asia Transportation Ecology Forum was held to explore how this development is already impacting ecosystems—affecting species from butterflies to elephants—and how science-based solutions can be applied to conserve Asia’s rich biodiversity.
An international group of more than 25 elephant biologists and infrastructure ecologists released a report today with an urgent message: All efforts to avoid key Asian elephant habitats and their migration corridors need to be made when developing linear infrastructure like roads, railways, and canals. If this is not possible, wildlife crossings are key to providing safe passage for this endangered species. The report comes in response to an explosion of new linear infrastructure across Asia that is increasingly blocking elephant movement and leading to deadly collisions.
Asia is home to many iconic wildlife species—such as Asian elephants, Bengal tigers, and Sumatran orangutans—along with some of the world’s richest biodiversity and most complex ecosystems. Yet, as Asia experiences unprecedented economic growth, the region’s natural heritage is threatened by the rapid expansion of linear infrastructure like roads, railways, and power lines. That’s why, over the last 14 months, the nonprofit Center for Large Landscape Conservation has helped USAID build a knowledge base to support Asian countries in planning wildlife-friendly linear infrastructure.
Every four years, thousands of representatives from government, civil society, Indigenous peoples, business, and academia come together at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) World Conservation Congress with the goal of setting conservation priorities and driving actions. In light of challenges to convening, the postponed 2020 Congress was held with both in-person and virtual participants from September 3 to 11, 2021, in Marseille, France. As an official non-governmental organization (NGO) Member of the Union, the Center for Large Landscape Conservation contributed in multiple ways at the Congress toward setting the international conservation agenda for the coming decade.
The ecological connectivity of marine and coastal ecosystems is essential. It requires linkages that connect our oceans' critical habitats, species, and natural processes. These connections allow a variety of species to move and they also sustain important ecosystem functions such as fish larvae dispersal, nutrient cycling, and carbon sequestration—the ocean's ability to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to slow climate change. To inform conservation efforts that maintain, enhance, and restore ecological connectivity of the oceans, a new publication was released today titled "Marine Connectivity Conservation ‘Rules of Thumb’ for MPA and MPA Network Design."
Protected lands and freshwaters cover approximately a sixth of the world’s surface according to the new Protected Planet Report 2020. This online publication provides insights on the status of global progress toward achieving the goal of protecting at least 17% of land by 2020. It also highlights opportunities for goals and actions toward halting and reversing the biodiversity crisis before 2050. The Center is proud to have contributed to this leading global assessment on the state of protected and conserved areas around the world.
Akash Patil of India spoke of his first encounter with a leopard and his subsequent commitment to a career in conservation. Nayla Azmi told a story of growing up in an Indonesian palm oil plantation and her journey to become an orangutan protector. Sarah Kulis, a recent graduate from West Virginia University, and legally blind, encouraged other aspiring conservationists with disabilities to persevere. These were three of the young storytellers who shared their experiences in conservation at the Center's workshop at the recent IUCN Global Youth Summit.
Recently, the United Nations General Assembly adopted an unprecedented resolution recognizing the critical importance of ecological connectivity worldwide. The resolution, sponsored by Kyrgyzstan and signed by 60 other countries, encourages all 193 country members to enhance habitat and species connectivity to preserve ecosystems and wildlife corridors that share borders between countries.
On this Earth Day 2021, the Center is proud to announce release of the official Spanish translation of the IUCN ‘Guidelines for Conserving Connectivity through Ecological Networks and Corridors.’ As the result of contributions from more than 100 experts in 30 countries serving as volunteer members of the IUCN WCPA Connectivity Conservation Specialist Group (CCSG), these groundbreaking Guidelines are already helping to clarify and standardize approaches worldwide for conserving ecological connectivity.
The Center is increasingly engaging with partners across Central Asia to build capacity, promote research, and implement connectivity conservation efforts in the countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. We are proud to be part of growing collaboration across this globally important biodiversity hotspot that has, among other progress, yielded important scientific evidence about the presence of an endangered and charismatic species—the Persian leopard—in Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan.