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Toward Biodiversity Conservation, Sustainable Use and Benefit-Sharing in Latin America and the Caribbean

Final Report Summary - BIOLAC (Toward Biodiversity Conservation, Sustainable Use and Benefit-Sharing in Latin America and the Caribbean)

Global biodiversity loss has been identified as one of the key environmental challenges of our time. Most of the world's biodiversity 'hotspots' are to be found in the developing world; indeed, one of the major assets of the region identified as Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) is its biological wealth, with Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in particular as one of the sites were global biodiversity is most in danger. It is therefore essential that we assess the interactions between biodiversity and human well-being in the very countries and regions that are both directly determining its loss by explicit economic decision-making and may also bear the brunt of the consequences of such loss. This was the fundamental objective of the BIOLAC project.

The project offers a framework for a pre-testing stage of environmental valuation in developing countries, and discusses this with specific reference to SIDS. Existing, aggregate global biodiversity indicators are downscaled to a study of SIDS, where an analysis is conducted that links such indicators of biodiversity change to the ecosystem services they support, and ultimately to the human livelihoods dependent upon these services. A comprehensive review of the literature on the valuation of the recreational, cultural and aesthetic services of these ecosystems, and the implications of these findings for SIDS, is discussed.

The case study selected was the remote village of Grande Riviere on the north-eastern coast of the island of Trinidad, the beach of which is the location of one of the major nesting sites of leatherback turtles, around which there is the fledgling development of an eco-tourism industry. The significant role of tourism and eco-tourism in the economic life of SIDS, and the role of biodiversity in these industries, is empirically investigated using panel data techniques. The sometimes competing roles of tourism and fisheries with respect to biodiversity resources in the context of SIDS is empirically investigated.

The methodologies associated with linking marine turtles, ecosystem services and human welfare is discussed from an inter-disciplinary perspective with the use of the ecosystem service categories of the millennium ecosystem assessment. The BIOLAC project created and administered four survey instruments, targeting the local community, local and national visitors to the village, and airport tourists. The relationship between the community and nature is empirically analysed. The community views on the existing and potentially expanding eco-tourism industry, community preferences for further penetration into this industry, and the factors that characterise and determine these preferences are studied. The existing and potential levels of demand for this eco-tourism product is investigated.

A joint analysis is conducted to analyse welfare distributional changes of biodiversity loss in Grande Riviere. A stock-taking exercise is conducted of attitudes of the Grande Riviere community to the issue of climate change. An empirical analysis is conducted of the methods of communication that currently have the most impact the Grande Riviere community in the context of climate change issues, and therefore represent the best channels of further education on climate change, with an aim to adaptation and mitigation strategies. Based on the experiences of the BIOLAC project, model revisions are suggested with explicit reference to challenges encountered and resolved. Finally, a toolkit is produced that outlines a roadmap for research applications to other case studies of the LAC region.