Maps pinpointing overlaps of high carbon and high biodiversity areas were just launched by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) with its Carbon and Biodiversity demonstration atlas.
The research shows how reducing emissions from deforestation can not only assist in combating climate change but can also help the conservation of biodiversity, from amphibians and birds to primates.
The atlas, believed to be the first of its kind, comes as nations meet in Poznan, Poland for the latest round of UN climate convention talks.
Close to 20 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions are a result of deforestation. Negotiators are looking to advance plans to fund Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) in a post-2012 climate deal.
The Carbon and Biodiversity Demonstration Atlas was produced by UNEP's World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) with support from the German government and initial seed funding from Humane Society International.
Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said: "At a time of scarce financial resources and economic concerns, every dollar, euro or rupee needs to deliver double, even triple dividends. Intelligent investment in forests is a key example where climate benefits and ecosystem benefits can be achieved in 'one transaction'."
He said paramount to a successful REDD mechanism is ensuring safeguards for local and indigenous people so that they can benefit from any future REDD arrangements.
"However, by pinpointing where high densities of carbon overlap with high levels of biodiversity, the atlas spotlights where governments and investors can deal with two crises for the price of one. This does not include the other benefits from investing in forests ecosystem 'infrastructure', from stabilizing soils to conserving and boosting local and regional water supplies," he added.
The Great Ape Survival Partnership (GRASP, an initiative coordinated by UNEP and the UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is set to launch pilot activities to test the potential of achieving these "multiple benefits" from REDD in Central Africa and Southeast Asia.
The experts are looking at how investments in conserving carbon in the forests on the Nigerian-Cameroon border may also assist in conserving the habitat of the highly endangered Cross River gorilla, of which only 250-300 individuals remain. And in Indonesia, national and local authorities, communities and the oil palm sector will be engaged to reduce emissions from the carbon-rich peat-swamp forest, home of many populations of orangutan.
News of the pilot came early in December during the launch of the Year of the Gorilla 2009 initiative coordinated by UNEP's Convention on Migratory Species. The GRASP initiative will complement and may form part of a wider United Nations REDD Programme, led by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and UNEP. The UN REDD Programme is assisting nine pilot countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia and will also provide support to the development of a global REDD mechanism, working in cooperation with the World Bank Forest Carbon Partnership Facility and others.
The demonstration Atlas includes regional maps as well as national maps for six tropical countries (see below) showing where areas of high carbon storage coincide with areas of biodiversity importance. It also shows where existing protected areas are high in both carbon and biodiversity. The atlas includes a variety of statistics drawn from these maps demonstrating the different types of possible information that can be provided.
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