Conclusion: an explicit guard rail for biosphere conservation I 1.6 307 At the global level regions can be identified using the approach outlined in Section F 5 upon which particular attention should be placed to maintain certain natural biomes or ecosystems, since the biosphere in these areas does not just fulfil an important function within system Earth, but also responds sensitively to changes in environmental conditions. These hotspots must be maintained because oftheir ecosystem functions for the Earth System. Identified as important, and at the same time fragile, biogeographic regions for example in Section F 5.3 are certain areas in the Northwestern United States, the Southwestern part of Canada, the Atlantic coastal part of Amazonia with Guyana, Surinam and parts of Brazil, critical areas on the northern edge ofthe steppes of Kazakhstan, regions along the Sahel zone and zones transitioning into rainforest in West and Central Africa. Fig. F 5.3-2 shows these and other hotspots of criticality that merit protection. From these ideas, minimum requirements for area-related ecosystem conservation may be derived: in these sensitive regions with globally important biosphere functions land use may not be allowed to lead to changes in natural vegetation across large areas since this would impair the functioning of those areas in terms ofthe global regulatory mechanism. I 1.6 Conclusion: an explicit guard rail for biosphere conservation It is certainly not possible with the current knowledge available to derive a precise and scientifically founded guard rail for biosphere conservation in the form of a proportion ofthe total area that should be protected. The estimates do, however – whatever their methodological shortcomings – offer at least reference points which the Council has used for general orientation. The various approaches to maintain the components and aspects ofthe biosphere from the various appraisals oftheir function andtheir value all come to a similar scale of area required: on 10–20 per cent ofthe worldwide terrestrial biosphere ‘nature conservation use’ should be the priority form of land use. Of course, distinctions need to be made according to biomes, countries, etc since there will be regions where a figure of 80 per cent or even 90 per cent of priority conservation area is not exaggerated; and in other regions 2–5 per cent may actually be sufficient. This figure should be understood more as a stimulus towards systematic reflection than as a quantitative prescriptive figure for actual biosphere policy. It is a call to the international community to turn its attention as a whole and in earnest to the central issue ofthe biosphere. In many countries this will be easy, in others more difficult. More thought needs to go into mechanisms for international agreement and burden-sharing (Chapter I). The selection ofthese areas is a difficult task for which scientific criteria and claims are insufficient, and which must be enforced in the societal process (Section E 3.9). There is now a large body of literature on selection criteria and procedures as well as on prioritization (eg Miller et al, 1995; Johnson, 1995; Dinerstein et al, 1995; Stattersfield et al, 1998). In these areas other uses such as sustainable forestry, soft tourism, scientific expeditions, habitat for indigenous communities, etc are not precluded, as long as no large amounts of biomass are extracted andthe activities do not fundamentally change the character and features ofthe landscape under protection (eg by biogeochemical inputs; Section E 3.3.2). Given the impact of humankind and society on each and every ecosystem today, adaptive management is to be recommended, that means flexibility and an ability to learn in the case of protection targets and measures as nature conservation areas are developed (Section E 22.214.171.124). But the biological imperatives cannot simply be fulfilled by designating protected areas. The following points should also be noted: • Topography: The situation of protected areas in relation to one another andtheir linkage is very important (migration corridors, escape zones in case of climate change, stepping stone ecosystems on the routes of migratory birds, etc) • Regional concepts: priority nature conservation areas must in the respective regional context be supplemented with zones of extensive use within the framework of a concept for differentiated land use (eg buffer zones; Section E 3.3.2). Bioregional management offers some approaches in this regard for integrated consideration ofthe various demands placed upon landscapes (Section E 3.9). • Guidelines for land use: Even in the zone in which intensive management is envisaged, certain rules should be kept, eg for soil and water protection. Species conservation will, for example, also be reflected in hunting rules and trade restrictions (Section D 3.1). These guidelines are given in Box I 1.1-1. From these ideas important research recommendations can be derived (Chapter J) since it will without a doubt be one ofthe primary tasks for applied biosphere research to track down more precisely the central target parameters of global change rather than working with the to some degree inadequate tools of expert estimates.
I 2 Elements of a global biosphere policy I 2.1 Tasks and issues The call for a global policy of sustainable use and conservation ofthe biosphere rests, in accordance with the Council’s reasoning, up to this point on two foundations: 1. For this type of policy, moral and ethical principles are asserted which attribute an intrinsic value to the biosphere and thus concede it an existential right of its own (Chapter H). 2. We point out that the loss of biological diversity andthe reduction of biosphere services constitute a serious restriction ofthe future viable path of development for society andtherefore, in particular with a view to future generations, also the risk of long-term loss of societal prosperity (Chapters C–F). Preventing such welfare losses requires first of all that global and spatial conservation goals are established, on the basis of which differentiated protective measures and sustainable forms of use may be developed. It must be the aim ofthese endeavours to prevent humankind from triggering the eradication of species. To that extent it is necessary to establish a pragmatic and gradual biosphere policy that combines government and international control with a decentralized system of incentives to create a comprehensive strategy of sustainability for the biosphere. Various specific challenges present themselves in connection with designing this sort of global biosphere policy– by contrast to many areas of action in the area of environmental and resource conservation policy: • Biological diversity, in its three components – ecosystems, species and genetic variability – is an unusually complex asset and object of protection. • There is a considerable problem of uncertainty and knowledge with regard to target models andthe measures and implementation routes to be taken. • There are particular difficulties in developing a quantified appraisal of biological diversity. • A global biosphere policy calls for the adequate consideration of temporal, spatial, geographic and social allocation conflicts and for the optimum spatial level of action to be established. • Global biosphere policy is inconceivable without the fundamental willingness to participate and cooperate on the part ofthe various private and public players at local, national and international level. I 2.1.1 Overcoming the knowledge deficit A central hindrance to the establishment of conservation strategies for biological diversity are the serious knowledge deficits that still exist and which relate to biological and biogeochemical contexts, in particular the causes, scale and consequences of a loss of biodiversity andthe impact of human actions (Becker-Soest, 1998a, b; Chapters D–F and J).Above all, there are limits to answer the fundamental question of how much nature humankind needs in the long term to survive. In that respect, the derivation of clearly definable global and regional guard rails (bioregional level) is highly problematic (Sections E 3.9 and I 1). So biosphere policy must still operate without knowledge ofthe precise mechanisms ofthe biosphere dynamic, and political action must take place in a context of gross uncertainty. For this reason, the Council talks about ‘biological imperatives’ instead of quantifiable guard rails. These five identified imperatives (Section I 1) should in the view ofthe Council, however, be given particular consideration andtherefore form the subject of a global biosphere policy. These policy fields are not sufficient to be able to provide a comprehensive explanation ofthe importance of biodiversity (Chapter H), but they do point to areas on which global biosphere policy might focus: • Preserving the integrity of bioregions. • Safeguarding existing biological resources. • Maintaining biopotential for the future. • Preserving the global natural heritage.