Habitat loss not only deprives species of their natural home, but also destabilises the world’s ecosystems by disrupting the complex interactions between the mutually dependent organisms that co-exist there. As such, it represents arguably the greatest threat to global biodiversity.
One of the greatest threats to biodiversity
What do we mean by ‘ecosystem’ vs ‘habitat’? Read on to learn more.
Fauna & Flora International (FFI) uses a range of approaches to address the causes of habitat loss, but always works with in-country partners to ensure that the action we take is locally appropriate. Above all, we operate on the basis that success is contingent on working with communities and including them in all decisions that affect their daily lives, rather than creating ‘wildlife-only’ exclusion zones.
Supporting existing protected areas
The ongoing governance and management of protected areas after formal designation remains a challenge in many regions. FFI works with local organisations, communities and government partners to ensure that existing protected areas are effectively managed. This involves, for instance, providing support for on-the-ground enforcement at protected sites, development of management plans, restoration of habitat and invasive species control.
In Liberia, for example, FFI played an instrumental role in re-establishing operations in Sapo National Park following years of conflict. This work has included supporting the Forestry Development Authority with rebuilding its technical capacity, carrying out biomonitoring within the reserve, establishing an education centre at which national and international scientists can study Liberian biodiversity, and working with neighbouring communities to establish sustainable livelihoods, among many other activities.
Bringing new areas under protection
FFI has helped to bring millions of hectares of crucial habitat under conservation management by supporting the establishment of new reserves and community management areas.
In Cambodia, for example, we have been working with partners and the government since 2011 to protect the country’s coral reefs, seagrass meadows and mangrove forests, which all face serious threats. This work has included supporting the design of Cambodia’s first large-scale marine protected area with the aim of ensuring a sustainable level of resource use that is compatible with tourism development, poverty reduction and biodiversity conservation. In June 2016, our efforts were rewarded when the government proclaimed Cambodia’s first large-scale marine protected area, encompassing some 400 square kilometres of the Koh Rong Archipelago. Learn more about our marine work.
Large-scale habitat protection
The support of Arcadia, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin, has also enabled FFI to secure – and, importantly, transfer into local hands – some of the world’s most severely threatened habitats across a wide range of regions and ecosystems through an initiative known as Halcyon Land & Sea.
This fund was set up specifically to protect areas of exceptional conservation value at risk of destruction or degradation, and also aims to build local and national capacity to manage and finance these sites over the long term, engaging the local community wherever possible. Some interventions now take the form of straightforward site management support, and the fund also stimulates local livelihood and enterprise initiatives that generate direct income for the surrounding communities.
Among many Halcyon Land & Sea success stories is that of Ol Pejeta Conservancy in northern Kenya, which was established in 2003 when FFI purchased 36,420 hectares of land to protect critical migration corridors for wildlife including the black rhino. Ownership was subsequently transferred under a long-term management agreement to a Kenyan non-profit organisation.
Similarly, in Romania’s Carpathian Mountains, FFI purchased a relatively small but strategically vital area of the country’s most important and threatened forest habitat and, working alongside our in-country partner Asociatia Zarand, we have since demonstrated how sympathetic forest management can enhance biodiversity.
Other examples of economically, biologically and culturally vital habitats that have been saved from destruction through direct intervention – with Halcyon Land & Sea support – include the botanically rich Flower Valley landscape at the southern tip of Africa, and the Golden Stream Corridor Preserve, a vital watershed in Belize, both of which are now managed by FFI’s local partners.
In its first two decades, Halcyon Land & Sea enabled FFI to directly secure some 9.5 million hectares of vital habitat that would otherwise have been irretrievably lost, and contributed to the conservation of nearly 56 million hectares, an area almost the size of Kenya.
Although all of our habitat protection initiatives engage in various ways with women and men living nearby, there are some cases where the most appropriate way to conserve an area is to directly help communities secure their access and management rights. This provides a powerful incentive – and a clear responsibility – for people to invest in managing their resources sustainably. FFI has a long history of supporting this approach, including in Kerinci Seblat National Park in Sumatra where we are working with forest-edge communities to help them gain recognition of their traditional ‘village forests’ and develop the skills needed to manage these areas sustainably. Not only does this give them a strong sense of ownership, it also allows them to block efforts by outsiders or companies to take over these forests.
Supporting government initiatives and international conventions
Some conservation issues require state intervention, while others transcend jurisdictional boundaries. FFI supports many government partners in addressing their conservation priorities. For example, we have worked with the Ministry of Environment and Tourism in Namibia to help assess the potential impacts of uranium mining and other development scenarios in the Namib Desert. We also contribute actively to the development of numerous international conventions, protocols and mechanisms intended to protect natural habitat worldwide, including REDD+, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, and the Business and Biodiversity Offsets Programme.
Harnessing partner potential
Despite their willingness to take positive action that helps to safeguard threatened habitats, the individuals and institutions in parts of the world that are rich in biodiversity are often constrained by limited resources. FFI provides long-term, tailored support to those who request assistance in enhancing their ability to protect their own ecosystems.
Rapid Response Facility
Sudden crises in areas of high biodiversity often require urgent action to avoid catastrophic consequences. The Rapid Response Facility, set up in 2006 as a partnership between the UNESCO World Heritage Centre and FFI, provides emergency support for natural World Heritage sites during times of crisis. The mechanism has distributed one million dollars in times of greatest need, supporting the protection of 30 million hectares of the world’s most valuable wildlife habitat.
Learn more about our work to protect vital habitats
There is no doubt that our planet is under pressure as never before. Learn about some of the conservation challenges we need to tackle, and how you can help.