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Finding a balance between livelihood and biodiversity

Is it possible to enable economic development while simultaneously sustaining the environment? European experts travelled to the far reaches of the globe to find out.
Finding a balance between livelihood and biodiversity
Since the beginning of civilisation, humankind has favoured areas near water to call home. Exploitation of local natural resources puts a strain on these sensitive ecosystems, never more so than today. Achieving the ideal balance between making a living and protecting the environment is not always simple. Examples from the far reaches of the globe contribute to better understanding of sustainable development.

This challenge was addressed by the EU-funded project LIVEDIVERSE (Sustainable livelihoods and biodiversity in riparian areas in developing countries), which conducted case studies spanning three continents. Research in riparian settlements in Costa Rica, India, South Africa and Vietnam enabled scientists to come into direct contact with locals. The result was a better understanding of how livelihood impacts biodiversity and vice versa.

In addition, environmental data as well as information regarding relevant governmental policy was collected and organised in an online library. This data was used to develop an environmental vulnerability index (EVI) capable of capturing the critical elements of each case study. Maps of the EVI were developed using geographical information system software.

Study results reveal the key issues that contribute to biodiversity vulnerability are specific to area. In Terraba basin, Costa Rica, the most important vulnerability issues related to volcano risk, large amount of freight imported, losing unique species, large number of species introduced and excessive use of pesticides. In Mutale basin, South Africa, vulnerability is due to the large amount of freight imported, endangered species, low proportion of terrestrial reserves and frequency of conflicts.

The scope of LIVEDIVERSE was not limited to the science of biodiversity. Socioeconomic as well as cultural and spiritual aspects were also integrated. This holistic approach contributes the insight necessary to make more effective policy recommendations.

Efforts to share the knowledge acquired during the project’s lifetime covered the full range of media, including short videos describing the project, which are available online. The project therefore increased available knowledge regarding the promotion of sustainable management of the environment and its resources to provide new insights into interactions between ecosystems and human activities.

LIVEDIVERSE contributed to the implementation of international commitments, protocols and initiatives conducted by the EU and Member States on biological diversity, combating desertification, natural disaster reduction and sustainable development. It also dealt with the research needs of existing and emerging EU legislation and policies.

Related information


Livelihood, biodiversity, LIVEDIVERSE, riparian, environmental vulnerability index
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