Land Conservation and Forest Restoration, Volunteers and Visitors

Osa Conservation partners with Take 3! to fight pollution in the Osa Peninsula

by Katherine Clukey, Sustainable Agriculture Intern

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Yvonne Hilterman and Brigid Prouse collect trash during the morning Piro beach patrol.

 

Pollution in our environment is a serious threat to the balance and flow of our natural ecosystems.  Marine habitats are especially vulnerable to pollution as oceanic currents, gyres, and winds collect and accumulate debris threatening marine life, fishing, and economies.  Being that every river leads to the sea and the ocean is downhill from everywhere, the responsibility of marine pollution comes down to us all.  Plastic, in particular, is a very resilient form of pollution as is does not biodegrade, instead it photodegrades into smaller and smaller pieces but never really disappears. Plastic debris has been found in all the world’s oceans and continues accumulating from polar regions to the equator, from highly populated coast lines to remote oceanic islands.  Marine creatures often mistake small plastic fragments as prey and it has been estimated that over 100,000 marine mammals and one million seabirds die each year from ingesting or becoming entangled in plastic.

 

Here in Costa Rica, our research stations are situated in the thick rainforest of the Osa Peninsula where we are surrounded by rich biodiversity and many rivers that all lead to the sea.  Everyday we explore our trails, we hike down to the beach, and we walk for kilometers along the coast in search of nesting sea turtles.  We see, feel, and understand the beauty of our natural world everyday.  For that, Osa Conservation has collaborated with Take 3! in Australia in an effort to do our part in the fight against pollution.  Take 3 is a non-profit organization based in Australia and formed in 2009 that aims to raise awareness of marine debris by simply asking each visitor to the beach, waterway or anywhere to take 3 pieces of trash when they leave.  Inspired by this conscious initiative, we as well feel an easy way for everyone in the Osa Peninsula to contribute to the protection of our natural world is by encouraging all of our visitors and all of our community members to simply take 3 pieces of trash when they leave the beach, river, jungle or everywhere.

 

The Take 3! pledge is simple:

  • NEVER litter and Take 3 pieces of trash whenever you visit the beach, river or anywhere!
  • REUSE disposable plastic products like plastic bags, plastic bottles, coffee cups and straws. Use reusable alternatives instead.
  • SHARE this information with at least 3 people.

 

Here at Osa Conservation, we are fully committed to the protection of our natural world.  We are excited for this contribution to the wellbeing of our environment and how little by little, together, we are making a difference.

 

Please visit the Take 3 website to learn more about marine pollution and ways you can help. www.take3.org.au

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Community Outreach, Environmental Education, Land Conservation and Forest Restoration, Science and Research

A win, win, win situation: conserving wetlands is a triple-win!

By Andrés Jiménez, Wetlands Program Coordinator

 

Recently I had the opportunity to spend time with Doctor Jurgenne Primavera, a world-class mangrove scientist from the Philippines. A quiet yet cheerful scientist, she shows a special glitter in her eyes every time she talks about mangroves. After more than 40 years of working with these trees, she still smiles when showing a picture of herself climbing one.

I have to admit, at this moment I had no idea of what was happening in the Philippines. The only vague concept I had about the country’s natural resources was the existence of the awesome coral reefs surrounding the 7,107-island archipelago.  Never had I expected to learn so much from such a short experience.

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Dr. Primavera plants a mangrove tree with a local boy in the Térraba Sierpe National Wetlands

 

After one meeting and three mind-blowing presentations, I came to have a grasp on the situation. The Philippines is a country characterized by the protection of its coral reefs with simultaneous historical destruction of its wetland mangrove ecosystems. Due to overfishing in the oceans and the immense pressure of overpopulation (close to 100 million people in a land area of 300,000 km2 – meaning 308 inhabitants per square km!), vast amounts of mangrove forests were cut down and replaced with aquaculture ponds, among other things. These ponds were meant to supply the growing nation with the protein source they could no longer find in the oceans due to overfishing.

This situation generated a long list of ailments for the country, the main one being increased typhoon vulnerability. By removing the vegetation (in this case, mangroves) from coastal areas, you leave an open path for these destructive climate phenomena to hit cities, towns and human structures directly. Destruction of this “green belt” of protection has dramatically increased the number of damages from these types of phenomena. In 2009, Typhoon Pepeng left up to 375 people dead and cost the country 27 billion pesos (630 million dollars) in damages1. Taking into account climate change and the fact that the Philippines are hit with an average of 20 typhoons per year2, this country is facing a dangerous climatic situation.

However, there is a silver lining to this story. The Philippines has begun to gradually recover its green belt of protection through combined efforts from the government, NGOs, and local communities. Filipinos have adopted a community-based mangrove management scheme, where communities will lease a certain amount of mangrove land for a period of 25 years. The communities will look after, protect and profit from these vital natural resources. The government takes charge of regulating and authorizing the use of the land, communities are in charge of the active management of the land, and NGOs, the third piece of the puzzle, provide the core for articulation of efforts and much-needed community capacity-building. All three groups benefit from the results of these efforts, making it a win, win, win situation – a triple win for the Philippines.

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A local boy from the community of Boca Guarumal practices how to extract mollusks, a traditional lifestyle in Costa Rican mangroves

In an ideal world, this system would be perfect, but is it really? Even though this Asian country has been successful, it has also had stories of failure, where the community fails to join in, or a new local government comes into power and the efforts for mangrove conservation get forgotten. In other cases the NGOs involved just think about their own benefit and either exit the project too soon, before the community is ready to handle the challenge, or stick around for too long, crippling the leadership of the locals. My point here is that no matter how you see it, the country is starting to realize mangroves are vital for their well-being and are slowly correcting a historical mistake using very interesting participative models. As a matter of fact, the mangroves are so valuable now that Filipinos throw massive weddings organized by the local government, where, if you plant some mangrove trees, you get married for free – as Doctor Primavera likes to put it, “leaving behind a life of sin in more than one way.”

What can we learn from the Philippines case? It is clear to me that management needs to, at least, come from 3 main sources – the government, the locals that live, feed and enjoy the wetlands and the civil society represented by NGOs and even private companies. It doesn’t look so complicated, does it? However, in real life, it has proven to be challenging.

Here comes the Costa Rican case, with 25% of the country’s territory under some kind of environmental protection, strong civil participation and a wiling (in most cases) government – yet, in environmental management, Costa Rica is falling behind.  Yes, Costa Rica has been very successful in protecting natural areas but has a different historical debt than the Philippines. The country has only been able to create, structure and implement management systems based on “upward-down models,” where the establishment, management and regulation of national protected areas comes only from the government.  This means that making the Philippines’ model a reality in Costa Rican wetlands is far from happening, as the laws ban the management of government land by civil society. Is this a problem? If you ask me, I think it is. Currently the country, and, I would dare to say, the world, needs for the communities and locals that live and experience the natural resources firsthand to feel empowered for their well being and to understand that good ecosystem health means good human population health.

I think wetlands are a great place to start with “triple-win models.” Wetlands provide enormous amount of ecosystem services, act as climate buffers, protect water sources, function as food sources and clearly have a huge importance in transportation, among other things. Even more, wetlands have been an important landscape for humans since ancient times. Certainly the extreme climate phenomena pressure that moved the Philippines to action is not as critical in Costa Rica, but this is no excuse to not move forward in different, more successful management models.

Important changes are necessary to successfully implement this in Costa Rica, such as legislation changes, governmental attitude modification and above all civil society awareness and involvement. With active involvement of the civil society, more effective management can take place. Local capacity-building and awareness will be decisive on the success of these models moving to a new panorama were Governments are no longer viewed as the sole or even primary stewards of forest resources.

 

Sources

1 www.typhoon2000.ph

2 Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration. 2011. Climate change in the Philippines 2000. Pp 85.

 

Land Conservation and Forest Restoration, Miscellaneous

Costa Rica and the World Bank sign novel REDD+ agreement

by Florencia Franzini

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Members of the Costa Rican government, including president Laura Chinchilla, and representatives from the World Bank sign a landmark REDD+ agreement. Photo Credit: the World Bank.

On September 10, 2013, Costa Rica and the World Bank, acting for the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, signed a letter of intent stating the terms of negotiation for its Emissions Reduction Payment Agreement. The ERPA would allow for the FCPF to purchase carbon emissions, or “carbon credits,” for up to a value of $63 million – making Costa Rica the first nation to access large-scale payments for conserving and regenerating its forests and scaling up agro-forestry systems for sustainable landscapes and livelihoods.

The carbon credits purchase program aims to conserve and regenerate forest and sustainably develop 340,000 hectares (840,200 acres) of privately owned land. Aside from the large scale, this program stands out due to the fact that 10% of the targeted land belongs to indigenous peoples. Costa Rica will allow these landowners to participate in the Payments for Environmental Services program, put into effect by the National Forestry Fund and the Minister of Environment and Energy in 1997 to compensate landowners for planting and protecting trees on their land, and for enriching biodiversity conservation of the local ecosystem.

This proposed Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) concept is one of the first programs that has been undertaken on a national scale, and is by far one of the largest programs of its kind. Costa Rica has long been a pioneer in the preservation of its ecological habitats and in its aim to promote sustainability and green growth, so it comes as no surprise that they should be willing to take part in this innovative project. Costa Rica also hopes the REDD+ scheme will help contribute to the country’s bold carbon neutrality goal by 2021. Estimate show that about 80% of the projected carbon emissions reduction will be coming from this project alone.

The World Bank supports the REDD+ scheme due to the fact that efforts will contribute to the management of forest and agricultural landscapes through a ecologically integrated approach, but they are also looking at this program to provide an increase in sustainable wood production, to promote the use of certified wood products, and to create new employment opportunities for small scale farmers.