Why the tropics?
All of us here at ICFC care about conservation within Canada, so why are we working "everywhere else"? Well, first, the world’s natural heritage belongs to us. And tropical regions teem with biological diversity and this is where nature is most imperilled, conservation is most under-funded, and dollars go furthest.
The Amazon alone is home to: 6,000 tree species (vs. 140 species indigenous to Canada); 5,600 fish species; 1,300 bird species (Canada has 450 bird species); and an estimated 2.5 million species of insects (most not yet described). Many tropical species have small ranges, which makes them more vulnerable. Are we protecting this rich biodiversity? No, not nearly enough. Something on the order of one million species are at some degree of risk of extinction, according to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. Tropical deforestation and the loss of other valuable tropical ecosystems is ongoing but largely avoidable. Conversion for agriculture remains the top threat to terrestrial ecosystems. But degraded lands can be restored for agriculture (or as natural areas) and agriculture and fisheries can be made sustainable and much more productive. We can minimize other impacts on natural ecosystems.
Some day the huge benefits provided freely to the world from tropical ecosystems will be properly accounted for and paid for. Until then the tropics will remain the conservation priority. ICFC is partnering with some of the world's best local conservation organizations to achieve lasting conservation gains. We can think of no better investment.
Photo credits: Karl M Zuzarte (rhinos); Andrew Freedman (Greenland glacier)
Knowing that forests are a factor in slowing global warming, our supporters sometimes ask what the climate impact of our projects is. While we don’t have any forest carbon projects that generate verified carbon credits with exact numbers – those are often expensive to set up and maintain – our work benefits the climate in a big way. In protecting 10 million hectares of the Brazilian Amazon, our Kayapo project avoids emissions conservatively estimated at 110 Mt CO2e annually at a cost of less than 5 cents a tonne.
Globally, there is a huge climate mitigation potential from preventing loss of natural ecosystems, restoring them and allowing forest regeneration. New studies make clear that the contribution of forests to climate stabilization is much bigger than we realize. The figures usually reported are net carbon emissions derived by subtracting carbon sequestration (carbon removed from the atmosphere by forests) from the gross emissions caused by deforestation. If we both prevent the latter and enable the former, the combined impact is large. Other ecosystems are also important (especially coastal ecosystems and peatlands), but forests have the biggest potential to counter climate change, and especially tropical forests, which also cool the planet through massive evapotranspiration and cloud formation. What are called "natural climate solutions" (or nature-based solutions) can help the world achieve an estimated 37 percent of the Paris Agreement target through 2030. Along with a rapid reduction in fossil fuel emissions, this must be part of our climate solution. In conserving natural ecosystems, ICFC is making an outsized contribution.
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