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Value of protecting biodiversity

121023_08
An Irrawaddy dolphin swims in the Cheuteal pool in Stung Treng province. Photograph: WWF-Cambodia

Developed countries agreed to double funding to protect biodiversity during the 11th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Hyderabad, India, which ended last Saturday, according to a press release by the CDB secretariat.

The increased funding aims at supporting efforts in developing countries to meet the internationally agreed Biodiversity Targets and the main goals of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011 – 2020.

“The present economic crisis should not deter us, but on the contrary encourage us to invest more towards amelioration of the natural capital for ensuring uninterrupted ecosystem services, on which all life on earth depends,” said  Jayanthi Natarajan, minister of Environment and Forests for India.

According to information by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in the CBD’s Global Biodiversity Outlook 3 from 2010, biodiversity is of high economic value.

Annual losses caused by deforestation and forest degradation may equate to losses of US$2 trillion to $4.5 trillion, the UNEP said in the outlook.

The losses could be prevented by investing $45 billion annually, according to the outlook. The plantation and protection of nearly 12,000 hectares of mangroves in Vietnam costs just over $1 million but at the same time saved annual expenditures of more than $7 million for dyke maintenance, the outlook said.

According to Gordon Congdon, freshwater conservation manager for WWF Cambodia, biodiversity is also of economic value in Cambodia.

He said for example the Irrawaddy Dolphins in the Mekong River are a big tourist attraction. He said it brings “a tremendous amount of income to the people near the dolphin watching sites and the hotel and business and restaurant owners in that province”.

Penny Wallace, environmental education coordinator at the Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity (ACCB), said based on basic interviews and research in their area they found that people taking wood or fruit from the forests will not increase their income or money they can spend but it’s more for their own consumption.

“So damaging the biodiversity isn’t helping from a monetary point of view, from an economical point of view,” she said.

Compared to some of the surrounding countries, Cambodia still has a lot of forest and the Mekong River still provides a very good habitat for many species, according to Congdon.

But he said there are significant threats to biodiversity.

“I would say that wildlife and biodiversity and natural habitat are under tremendous threat in Cambodia,” he said.

Lara Rogers, deputy project manager at ACCB, who could  only provide information on the Phnom Kulen national park,  said one problem was the cashew nut tree plantation.

According to Rogers, the tree is only useful for 10 to 20 years and then does not grow any more nuts.

But even if the trees are removed afterwards, because they absorb so many nutrients from the soil, no other plants can re-grow there, she said, adding that it has a big effect on biodiversity in the area.

To contact the reporter on this story: Anne Renzenbrink at anne.renzenbrink@phnompenhpost.com

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