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Conservation Methods

Sustainable Development
Biodiversity
Protected Areas
Coastal and Marine Conservation
Payment for Environmental Services
Sustainable Agriculture
Fire Management
Ecological Restoration
Ecotourism
Knowledge Management
Conservation and Poverty
 

Introduction

The Dominican Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Environment addresses the diversity of approaches and tools that are currently being used to conserve the environment and preserve biodiversity and other natural resources. Among these methods are the creation and management of protected areas; the implementation of sustainable agriculture systems; mechanisms for long-term financing (such as payment for environmental services); the conservation of coastal and marine resources; the ecological restoration of degraded ecosystems; the development and implementation of an environmentally friendly ecotourism approach; the management of environmental knowledge to promote learning, and the implementation of sustainable development concepts in general.


Protected Areas

Perhaps the most commonly used and efficient method for the protection of the environment is the preservation of nature, its biological diversity, and other environmental resources, through the establishment and management of protected areas. In fact, the first protected areas date back to approximately three thousand years ago, when the concept of areas for royal hunting was developed in Asian empires, where monarchs wanted to secure areas rich in wildlife. More recently, around the end of the 19th century, an environmentalist and naturalist movement was started in the Western world, which resulted in the creation of the first modern national parks: Yellowstone and Yosemite, both in the United States of America. Since then, over 100,000 protected areas have been created around the world, covering more than 12% of the earth's surface. At present, the declaration of protected areas remains the primary strategy for effective conservation, and it is heavily promoted by the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Currently, however, less emphasis is being placed on the creation of new areas, as the effective management and sustainable financing of those already existing is considered of greater importance.

Sustainable Agriculture

A supplementary strategy for the creation and consolidation of protected areas is sustainable agriculture. Taking into consideration that protected areas are often located in agricultural landscapes, a sustainable management of agriculture is key, incorporating the concepts of more environmentally-friendly methods of agriculture, livestock, forestry and fishery. Although agriculture has historically had the sole objective of agricultural and livestock production, it has recently started taking into account the principles of sustainability. In fact, there is a growing interest among producers and consumers of agricultural, horticulture, forestry and fishing products, for environmentally friendly productive processes. Instead of simply expanding agricultural areas toward the remaining forested areas, the proposal is to put more emphasis on agricultural intensification of the land already converted, in an environmentally sustainable manner. Agri-environmental movements, which focus on the promotion of more environmentally friendly, equitable, and more economically profitable agricultural systems play a key role in this context.

Payment for environmental services

There are other global trends that are worth mentioning, as they complement the aforementioned strategies. For example, during the past four decades, human beings have begun to realize that they rely on the limited existing natural resources for their long term survival. In addition, today it is recognized that, for our well-being, we are completely dependent on the Earth's ecosystems, and on the multiple goods and services that these ecosystems provide to us: drinking water, food, grains, climate regulation, soil erosion prevention, air purification, natural pest control, and pollination of agricultural crops. The valuation of such environmental goods and services is considered a key tool for the conservation of biodiversity, as it helps to establish payment systems that contribute to the preservation and restoration of the valuable ecosystems that surround us, and which we benefit from daily. Fortunately, this tool is being increasingly applied throughout the world, allowing the human population to pay for the environmental services that it enjoys, thus ensuring their conservation and continuity in the future.

Coastal and marine conservation

During the 20th century, the conservation of the environment has focused mainly on the planet's forests. It was not until the end of the last century, that an interest in focusing also on oceans and seas began, when it became evident that these bodies of water were suffering the effects of a rise in their levels as a result of global warming, overfishing, aquatic pollution, sedimentation through rivers, and coastal development, among other ailments. It is becoming increasingly well known that the seas and oceans of the world serve as habitat for a wide range of ecosystems of high biological, aesthetic and productive value. An integrated coastal-marine management could be a solution to the problem and should begin with the creation of networks of marine protected areas and their sustainable management, based on a clear and effective environmental legislation. The development and promotion of programs geared toward the sustainable use of coastal-marine resources with broad participation from governments, the private sector, and civil society is a key element of this environmental methodology.

Ecological Restoration

Many ecosystems suffer from such a high degree of fragmentation or degradation that there is no longer enough area to preserve their natural state within a protected area. In these cases, ecological restoration is essential, as its main objective is the recovery of the structure, function, diversity and dynamics of the original ecosystem as it existed prior to its disturbance or degradation. For this purpose, it is essential to promote ecological restoration as a way to sustain the diversity of life on Earth and restore an ecologically sound relationship between nature and culture. Fortunately, a series of successful efforts geared towards the restoration of degraded ecosystems of great value to society and to the conservation of biodiversity in the world are already in place. In Latin America, there are many examples of successful restorations of previously degraded ecosystems in Colombia, Mexico, Costa Rica, and in the Dominican Republic. In the case of this Caribbean nation, for example, the recovery of the forest in various regions stands out and has benefited from economic growth and a shift towards intensifying the productive use of lands and the expansion of the services and industry sectors.

Ecotourism

Another successful tool in the conservation of the environment is the development and promotion of the principles of sustainable eco-tourism. This form of recreation started in the 1980s and is considered an excellent way to encourage the preservation of the environment and promote environmental sustainability. It aims to be a responsible type of recreation that values the environment and seeks to contribute to its conservation and to the improvement of the well-being of local populations. Originally, it developed in countries such as Costa Rica, Ecuador, Kenya, Madagascar, and Nepal, but in recent times it has been implemented in dozens of other nations, including the Dominican Republic. At present, ecotourism offers a wide range of options for visitors who are aware of the need for environmental preservation. These options attempt to minimize the negative effects of tourism on the environment and the community, build respect and environmental and cultural awareness, and provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts. In the Dominican Republic, there are several places where alternatives for sustainable ecotourism are being offered today. Some examples are found in the area of Lake Enriquillo, the western pine forest of the Sierra de Bahoruco, the highlands of the Valle Nuevo, the Aguas Blancas de Constanza waterfall, the caves in the Parque Nacional del Este, and the Bao intermontane valley. All of these places offer a variety of activities to travelers who are aware of the need for environmental protection and conservation of biodiversity. Perhaps the best example of ecotourism in the country is the observation of humpback whales that is offered during the mating season inside the Sanctuary of Marine Mammals in Samana Bay.

Knowledge and Learning Management

A tool which complements many of the aforementioned environmental methods and techniques is knowledge and learning management. It consists of a strategic approach to actions, based on the theories of organization, education and research, which enable individuals and institutions to identify, develop, acquire, distribute and adopt ideas, knowledge, skills, lessons learned and experiences, to increase the likelihood of success in the activities to be implemented. At present, in the "Knowledge Age" in which we now live, it is recognized that the main competitive advantage for any individual, company or organization is proper knowledge management. In fact, intellectual capital forms the bedrock of progress for any individual or group of people: a well-informed community is a more successful community. This holds true for all actors who are currently involved - and those who will be involved - with the conservation of nature. For this reason, environmental education in primary schools is perhaps one of the most important strategies for managing the ecological knowledge needed to preserve nature for human well-being in the long term.

Sustainable Development

A final methodological strategy addressed in this dictionary is sustainable development. In fact, all the approaches, methods, and tools mentioned in this introduction are based on the principles of sustainable development. It is important to remember that the World Commission on Environment and Development (named Brundtland Commission after its president, Mrs. Gro Harlem Brundtland) defined the term 'sustainable development' in 1987 as the type of development that ensures that the needs of the present are met, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The key to achieving such development is to satisfy both the needs of the present, by promoting an economic activity that provides the necessary goods for the entire world population, as well as those needs that may arise in the future, while minimizing the negative impacts generated by the economic activity, so that they are bearable for the next generations.

The concept of sustainable development evolved during the World Summit on Sustainable Development held by the United Nations in Johannesburg, South Africa, in the year 2002. At that meeting, the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were adopted, which propose the implementation of actions for sustainable development that look to the future and encourage world progress for the benefit of all. These objectives focus on poverty eradication, social and economic development, the protection of the environment, desertification, water, energy, health, agriculture, biodiversity, employment, education, oceans, forests, arid lands, swamps, global warming and the atmosphere, among many other themes. Currently, the great challenge for countries is to advance in the fulfillment of the MDGs. The lack of sufficient resources to achieve the goals by the year 2015 is one of the main obstacles for developing countries. However, the MDGs continue to inspire society to follow the path of sustainable development, to ensure the well-being of future generations in a just world, where everyone will live in harmony with the environment, beyond the year 2015.

In conclusion, there is a wide variety of methods of environmental conservation in the world; some are presented within the framework of this dictionary and serve as an example of the many options that can be chosen to protect our environment and its biodiversity, which we all depend on.