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Friday, May 14, 2010

From the Director's chair: loss of diversity; myth or reality?

Hola a todos,

How is it going in your corners of the world?

A few days ago I was returning from the Pacific coast of Mexico, from a little community called Ixtapilla. There I was welcome by an amazing local community, a just slaughtered whole cow for the occasion (ok...the fact that it was the community leader's son's christening ceremony might have had something to do with it) and a natural beauty difficult to match. It was my first visit to the coast of Michoacan State, and I was amazed by what I found there.
Gilberto, a young but very bright and energetic community leader, filled me in with stories of whales, dark tunnels under the mountains and bright coloured birds in the forest. But the most incredible story was one of pure sacrifice, team effort and success. It was the story of a group of local community members who 16 years ago decided that they had enough of seeing people do nothing to protect one of their most precious visitors, las tortugas golfinas (or Olive Ridley Turtles as we know them).
16 years ago turtles arrived in hundreds to these shores, in what it's called "arribadas" or massive arrivals; 16 years ago turtles were killed and eggs collected; 16 years ago 50 locals decided to act; today over 70,000 hatchlings are released during the peak of the arribadas and a 98% of success has been achieved in relocated nest; today, between 3000 and 5000 turtles nest per day during the peak of the arribadas!
Flying back, dreaming of thousands of turtles synchronising their arrival I was reading an article on the latest UN Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO-3) report. Its conclusions were as far away from what I just experienced that made me doubt the report - are we being too gloomy and negative? are we not giving enough importance to many positive experiences there are around the world?
Sadly, after returning to the crude reality, I realised that I was the one being too positive. A few facts just made me realised how wrong I was (again!): the abundance of vertebrates - mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and fish - decreased by about one-third between 1970 and 2006. During the same period, the Earth's human population almost doubled. This continued destruction of biodiversity is affecting the capacity of ecosystems to deliver biological resources that support sustainable livelihoods, local food security and health care. What the report is trying to put across is the idea of quantifying the economic benefits that nature brings, and then persuading people and governments and businesses that these economic benefits make preservation of said ecosystems a wise policy option.
Dreaming back to Ixtapilla it's easy to see how the recovery of the turtle population has brought economical benefits to the region, such as ecotourism ventures. I wonder how long it will take the rest of us around the world that this is the way forward.
Back in Playa, looking at the Caribbean and its reefs, I realise we are still far from it. Our reefs are dying, coral coverage lower than ever and fish numbers decreasing. Our work shows the stats, now it's time for governments to do something about it. It was done in Ixtapilla, why can't we do it elsewhere?

Until next time, keep diving and enjoying the nature

Danny (Regional Director)



ron said...

I read recently humans use 24% of the world's total photosynthesis. Seems like a lot for just one species.

But this number doesn't include all the stored photosynthesis we use; 85 million barrels of oil, 12 million tonnes of coal and 300 billion cubic feet of natural gas. Daily.

Makes a used bicycle look pretty good.