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A biodiversity Vision for the upper Paraná Atlantic Forest Ecoregion

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From Vision to Action – implementing an Ecoregion Action Plan

The implementation of this Biodiversity Conservation Landscape will require a series of actions at different time and spatial scales. Since no one organization can achieve results at this scale, actions must be coordinated among governmental and non-governmental organizations of many sectors. Achieving this Vision will require governments to incorporate the principles, ideas, and designs into their regional development programs and policies. Maintaining intact forest in the Core Areas will require improved implementation of existing protected areas, both public and private, and new protected areas must also be established. The connections among Core Areas can most easily be secured through the establishment of forest corridors crossing landscapes of multiple use zones that provide services valuable for the human population. Design of these corridors and multiple use zones will require fine-scale land use planning. It is critical to include the participation of stakeholders8 to develop their support for implementation. New environmentally-friendly and economically-viable production alternatives, as well as incentives for the protection of forest on private land (both large and small holdings), must also be developed. Perverse incentives that contribute to forest conversion must be eliminated. Large-scale education campaigns will be essential to increase public understanding of the value of protected forests and thus generate public support and involvement in conservation—including enforcement of existing forest laws and development of new, improved public policies where necessary. Capacity building is also essential for landowners, both public and private, to become effective stewards of forested areas. To implement many of these activities will require new basic and applied research in areas such as restoration of native forest communities, economic and biological sustainability of alternative land uses, needs assessments for communication and education efforts, land use planning, and economic mechanisms to sustain conservation.

With this Biodiversity Vision as a guide, WWF and local partners need to transform short-term actions already underway to an Ecoregion Action Plan that lays out targets over the short-term (1-5 years) and medium-term (10-15 years). This Plan should clearly identify threat mitigation strategies, and focus on clear targets for conservation achievement as well as on the roles of partner institutions, long-term financing possibilities, structures for effective governance, communication and campaign activities, and capacity building. These clear targets are essential to guiding, focusing, and monitoring progress. Together with this inspiring Vision, the clear targets and transparent reporting of achievements are necessary to build the commitment and ownership by partners for continued and active engagement. Embedded in the crafting of an Ecoregion Action Plan is the need for flexibility. As more information is collected and actions are monitored, the Plan can be easily updated and allow for sound judgment when a change of course or tactic is necessary. In addition to helping the ecoregion action programs organize their strategic efforts in an ecoregion, the Plan has other benefits. The Ecoregion Action Plan can help openly articulate the biodiversity agenda, and can help leaders recognize the importance of this agenda among other national and international priorities. It is clear that appropriate institutional development of partners is necessary to strengthen advocacy on a variety of levels. Since Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay are all (to varying degrees) recently emerging democracies, this capacity building overlaps significantly with the development of active participation in government and taking an active role as citizens.

Implementation may take place at levels below the ecoregional scale, or outside the ecoregion, depending on the issue involved. A threats analysis is an essential filter for determining at what scale and timeframe we should act. All conservation activities must be conceived and implemented in relation to the social and political realities in which they take place. In the Upper Paraná Atlantic Forest ecoregion, these realities are different in each of the three countries and even in different regions of the same country. Most of the actions will be implemented on a national or regional level within each country. However, strategic planning, monitoring of the threats and conservation results, and resulting adjustments must be conducted at an ecoregional scale.

Chapter 1

Ecoregion Conservation and the Biodiversity Vision

Conservation efforts around the world have been traditionally restricted to small areas and focused on local activities that take place in short time frames (1-5 years), such as the creation of a protected area or the implementation of a buffer zone. These activities are the basis of biodiversity conservation. However, to preserve biodiversity over the long term, we need to focus our efforts at much larger spatial and temporal scales, those at which most ecological and evolutionary processes that maintain biodiversity occur. This task requires analysis and planning at the level of landscape or larger spatial scales. Ecoregions are the best units of analysis for planning at large spatial scales (Box 1), even though many actions will be implemented locally.


What is an ecoregion?
An ecoregion is a relatively large unit of land or water that contains a distinct assemblage of natural communities sharing a large majority of species, dynamics, and environmental conditions. A terrestrial ecoregion is characterized by a dominant vegetation type, which although not universally present in the region, is widely distributed and gives unifying character to it. Because the dominant plant species provide most of the physical structure of terrestrial ecosystems, communities of animals also tend to have a unity or characteristic expression throughout the region.
Ecoregions are more suitable units for conservation planning because they:

  1. Correspond to the major driving ecological and evolutionary processes that create and maintain biodiversity;

  2. Address the maintenance of populations of the species that need the largest areas, an element of biodiversity that cannot be accommodated at the site scale;

  3. Encompass a logical set of biogeographically related communities for representation analysis; and

  4. Enable us to determine the best places to invest conservation efforts and to better understand the role that specific projects can and should play in conservation of biodiversity over the long term.

Analysis and planning at the ecoregional scale provide the best basis for establishing conservation priorities. “Act locally, but think globally” is a useful motto because although we invariably have to act locally, without thinking more broadly at global or regional scales, we lack a context (biological, social and economic) for specific local actions that will produce long-term conservation benefits.

From: Dinerstein et al. 2000. A Workbook for developing biological assessments and developing Biodiversity Visions for ecoregion conservation. Part I: Terrestrial Ecosystems. WWF- Conservation Science Program.

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