Highest Priority Biodiversity Areas Mapped for the First Time in the Patagonian Steppe and Shrublands
It took almost five years and more than 70 people --including conservation practitioners, researchers and technicians-- to publish the first book in Patagonia that scientifically identifies the highest priority biodiversity areas in the zone.
January 21, 2014
The book, titled “Identification of Areas of High Importance to Biodiversity in the Steppe and Shrublands of Patagonia”, was published in December 2013 by the Nature Conservancy together with the Argentine National Parks Administration (APN) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
The more than 500 biodiversity elements identified in the book are considered of high importance not only because of their biological value but also for their role within the Patagonian grasslands ecosystems. The geographical distribution of each of the elements is mapped, and for each element specialists assigned a conservation goal by asking: How much of this element would we like to conserve?
The information can be used by government agencies, nonprofits and companies or individuals to plan for the creation or strengthening of protected areas, to identify conservation corridors, and to provide input for environmental impact assessments for infrastructure development projects
Gustavo Iglesias, Protected Areas Conservation Specialists in Patagonia, and co-author of the book, answered some of the questions we had for him.
Why is this book important?
Gustavo: It’s the first time that a detailed, scientific analysis of where we want to protect biodiversity in Patagonia is published.
We know the book took a long time and many heads to produce. How does it make you feel to see it finally published and available for use?
Gustavo: First of all, it’s a great pleasure to see the final product of an effort taken on by so many people and institutions. But what I am also really interested in is the potential impact that a publication with this type of information can generate.
What do you think it will primarily be used for?
Gustavo: Probably one of the most important uses will concern infrastructure development projects. This particular data about biodiversity priorities will enable those involved to better estimate how big projects like mining and oil and gas exploration will affect the biodiversity of these regions.
What is the importance of working together with other organizations – in this case, WCS and the Argentine National Parks Administration?
Gustavo: Working with these partners enabled the exchange of analytical tools, information and experiences. It also allows for a more complete review of the data generated, its reliability and accuracy. Each of the partners has technical teams that they support that have been looking for just the type of information we compiled. These aspects, together with the invaluable, though often unpublished information provided by researchers give scientific credibility to the final publication.
Which practical applications of the data do you find most interesting?
Gustavo: It is an essential tool for applying the precautionary preventive measures principle to any large-scale projects venture of such a scale that it may negatively affect biodiversity- We can use it to assess the impacts on nature of infrastructure projects even before they are launched. It also enables us to measure future possible effects of climate change and natural catastrophes such as volcanic activity upon the biodiversity of Patagonia.
Many large-scale projects are in the future of Argentina. These are good news to the development of this beloved austral country. However we need to advance without destroying our natural beauty and this book is an essential tool for applying preventive measures to any projects that could negatively affect biodiversity in Patagonia.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the web at www.nature.org. To learn about the Conservancy’s global initiatives, visit www.nature.org/global. To keep up with current Conservancy news, follow @nature_press on Twitter.