Asia-Pacific Countries Take Action on Forestry, Freshwater Resources, Illegal Logging and Wildlife Trade
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Countries in Asia and the Pacific have engaged in a range of project activities and participated in workshops that aim to promote forestry, biodiversity and coastal wetland conservation, ensure sufficient freshwater resources and address threats from illegal trade in wildlife, illegal logging and invasive alien species (IAS).

asian_pacificApril 2016: Countries in Asia and the Pacific have engaged in a range of recent project activities and workshops that aim to promote forestry, biodiversity and coastal wetland conservation, ensure sufficient freshwater resources and address threats from illegal trade in wildlife, illegal logging and invasive alien species (IAS).

On forests, participants at a conference in the Mekong region identified secure land tenure and community participation as critical for biodiversity conservation and sustainable forest management (SFM). The ‘Regional Conference on Biodiversity Conservation in Tropical Forests of the Greater Mekong Subregion’ convened in Cambodia as part of the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) and Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Collaborative Initiative for Tropical Forest Biodiversity and a related project that aims to protect the habitat of 16 critical endangered or endangered wildlife species in Cambodia, Thailand and Laos. Participants stressed the importance of strengthening SFM in all forest types to mainstream landscape-level ecosystem services and called for strengthening forest governance and enforcement in protected forests. The conference also supported, inter alia: mainstreaming biodiversity in the tropical forest sector, including through national biodiversity strategies, action plans and targets focused on achieving the Aichi Biodiversity Targets; promoting transboundary biodiversity conservation areas; and building capacity to address SFM and Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 15 to sustainably manage forests, combat desertification and halt and reverse land degradation and biodiversity loss.

Also on forestry, the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) published a paper that finds agroforestry systems have a higher benefit-cost ratio than swidden cultivation systems and can increase average farm income, improve social cohesion, promote secure land tenure, and reduce pressure on adjacent forests for conversion to agriculture or other forest uses. The authors use a case study from West Java, Indonesia, to highlight how agroforestry, the practice of growing trees alongside crops, can contribute to forest conservation, explaining that agroforestry farmers tend to engage less in collecting forest products and clearing forests than their counterparts who engage in swidden farming, according to the article. It also highlights some barriers to the adoption of agroforestry related to capacity and culture.

Forests play a critical role in supporting Mongolia’s freshwater resources, according to participants in several collaborative workshops in Khuvsgul and Tuv provinces, Mongolia. To better understand the relationship between forest cover and water resources, the UN Environment Programme-World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) is collaborating with Mongolia’s Information and Research Institute of Meteorology, Hydrology and Environment (IRIMHE) to develop REDD+ planning tools that incorporate the multiple functions of forests as well as biodiversity and forestry conservation. Hydrological analysis carried out using ‘WaterWorld’ suggests that a reduction in forest would reduce water availability and total annual runoff. Conversely, analysis also illustrates the positive impacts of reforestation efforts on water provision and soil erosion reduction. This data is expected to contribute to additional analysis on potential reforestation areas as well as improved understanding of the benefits and trade-offs of forest reforestation versus other land uses.

Also on water, the Maldives is working to protect its freshwater resources through an ‘Integrated Water Supply System’ project. The Global Environment Facility (GEF) supported project will use harvested rainwater and desalinated salt water to meet the demand for freshwater and reduce the use of groundwater for the island’s agriculture on Thoddoo Island. These alternative sources of water aim to reduce the over-extraction of groundwater and the pollution of groundwater aquifers from agricultural chemicals and wastewater. The project is part of a larger GEF Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) initiative that aims to support Small Island Developing States’ (SIDS) to address water security. The ‘IWRM in Atlantic and Indian Ocean SIDS Project’, supported by UN Development Programme (UNDP) and UNEP, promotes IWRM in Cape Verde, the Comoros, the Maldives, Mauritius, Sao Tome and Principe and the Seychelles.

On wetlands, China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) called for closer cooperation on coastal wetland conservation. China and ASEAN issued a statement on the topic following discussion and exchange of information on coastal wetlands at a Forum in Shenzhen, China, which included over 50 participants from Asian governments and regional organizations, including the ASEAN Secretariat, ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity, NGOs, and the private sector. The statement will be presented at the ASEAN Working Group on Coastal and Marine Environment in Malaysia in May 2016, and is expected to result in an action plan to promote cooperation between China and the ASEAN countries.

To address illegal trade in wildlife, UNEP and the Xinhua News Agency, China’s state news agency, are collaborating to enhance their efforts to end the illegal trade in wildlife, the fourth largest illegal trade in the world. Xinhua will increase its media coverage of the illegal trade in wildlife and support UNEP’s efforts to raise awareness on the issue and educate consumers on the damages, with the aim of reducing demand for illegal wildlife products. Xinhua’s President Cai Mingzhao met with UNEP’s Deputy Executive Director Ibrahim Thiaw to discuss the collaboration during an official visit to Kenya. During his visit, President Cai also adopted Mwashoti, a one-year old elephant who was rescued from a poacher’s snare and is now recovering at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya.

Also on illegal trade, representatives from Cambodia, China, Thailand and Viet Nam agreed on measures to strengthen enforcement cooperation, revise legal and policy frameworks, reduce consumer demand and strengthen capacity to address the illegal logging and trade of Siamese Rosewood (Dalbergia cochinchinensis), a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Appendix II listed species found only in Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Thailand and Viet Nam. “These concrete steps…are critical if we are to put an end to illegal logging and illegal trade in Siamese Rosewood. Success will rely upon range, transit and consumer countries taking strong action against organized criminals and to eliminate the corruption that enables these highly destructive crimes to occur,” CITES Secretary General, John Scanlon said. He called for cooperation with industry to reduce the demand for rosewood and with local communities to promote legitimate, sustainable livelihood opportunities. The Government of Thailand hosted the ‘Second Regional Dialogue on Preventing Illegal Logging and Trade of Siamese Rosewood’ in Bangkok, Thailand. Government officials and representatives from CITES, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), ITTO, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the World Customs Organization and others attended the Dialogue.

On invasive alien species (IAS), the Government of Tonga has collaborated with the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) to control and manage IAS and increase the native bird population in Tonga, including the endemic Hengahenga, or the Tongan Whistler. SPREP has worked to increase the Tongan Whistler’s population on Mt Talau in the Vava’u islands through two projects funded by the GEF, which aim to address IAS and promote integrated island biodiversity (IIB). [ITTO Press Release] [UNEP Press Release, 23 March] [Finding Alternatives to Swidden Agriculture: Does agroforestry improve livelihoods options and reduce pressure on existing forests] [UNEP-WCMC Press Release] [UNEP Press Release, 25 February] [GEF Press Release] [RAMSAR Press Release] [CITES Press Release] [SPREP Press Release]

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