By Benjamin Bender
Forests and Livelihoods: Sustaining People and Planet
Photo: Ñandu (Rhea americana). Romi Galeota Lencina.
World Wildlife Day will be celebrated in 2021 with the theme "Forests and Livelihoods: Sustaining People and Planet" to highlight the central role of forests, forest species and services of the ecosystems supporting the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people around the world. And particularly of indigenous and local communities with historical ties to forested areas and adjacent to forests.
Photos: Mara (Dolichotis patagona). Geronimo Alonso; Dragoncito de Tres Colores (Phymaturus verdugo). Guillermo Debandi.
Between 200 and 350 million people live in or near forested areas around the world. Argentina is classified as one of the “megadiverse” countries, with 15 continental ecoregions, 3 oceanic and the Antarctic region, including 9,000 species of vascular plants and 2,380 species of vertebrates. With 400 protected areas (7.7% of the total area), it is a pioneer country in the region and the world in initiatives to protect biodiversity through the National Parks system.
Photos: Algarrobo Dulce (Prosopis flexuosa). Pablo Isola; Condor andino (Vultur gryphus). Mauricio Schmitbalter.
The National Strategy on Argentinian Biodiversity focuses on the formulation and implementation of policies, initiatives, regulations and procedures that, in a coordinated manner, promote a greater knowledge of environmental goods and services, the conservation and protection of biodiversity and its use in a sustainable development framework. Reaching 13% of the minimum protected area, 4% protection coverage of Argentine marine and coastal maritime zones, and increasing the current protection area of wetlands by 20% are some of the challenges that are being addressed.
Concerning forests and livelihoods, in 2007, the National Congress approved the law 26,331 on Minimum Budgets for the Environmental Protection of Native Forests. The Forest Law establishes that the provinces must carry out the territorial ordering of their native forests through a participatory process, which categorizes forested lands' possible uses: from conservation to the possibility of transformation for agriculture through the sustainable forest.
Photo: Guanaco (Lama guanicoe). Benjamin Bender.
Nowadays, we know that biological diversity offers economic and social importance services, such as pollination in crops, protection of water basins or soil fertility, being necessary for the well-being and balance in the biosphere, and therefore, of the environmental quality for human development.
We also know that the most relevant driver of biodiversity loss in terrestrial systems is land-use change, mainly converting native habitats into agricultural and livestock systems and overfishing in much of the oceans freshwater habitats, the fragmentation of rivers and streams and the extraction of water.
The advancement of natural environments' conversion to human activities has serious social, environmental, and economic consequences. It is important to increase conservation efforts, promote more efficient and ecologically sustainable food production and trade, reduce waste and encourage healthier and more environmentally friendly consumption or diets.
Besides, it is essential that companies, society and government respect the current legislation, or promote new ones, to protect our territory.
The development of laws protecting the woods and forests has been a positive step. However, the implementation of these Laws has been problematic. You can contribute to the knowledge and protection of biodiversity by participating in the Great Southern BioBlitz.