Dr. Gabby Ahmadia is a marine scientist with the World Wildlife Fund. She set aside some time to answer The Big Question in global wildlife conservation.
What is the biggest question facing your field?
Conservation is evolving from a primary focus on biodiversity outcomes, to a field that considers the interconnections between humans and nature. This increased emphasis on complex social-ecological systems leads to a critical question in our field – How do we better design and align conservation interventions across sectors to both conserve our coastal ecosystems, and provide benefits to the communities that depend on them?
Why is it significant?
Sectors, like development, health, and the environment, often work independently with noble missions. While many times this work converges and aligns, sectors often work in silos, and can even undermine each other’s efforts. For example, malaria nets have been used globally to fight mosquito-borne illness. But when communities started using these nets for fishing, a health solution became an environmental issue. Their small, mesh netting caught juvenile fish, leading to negative impacts on fish populations. More coordination across sectors, can help to prevent these unintended consequences, and provide solutions that transcend the environment and people.
Where is the answer likely to come from?
There are examples of diverse actors and institutions coming together to solve complex problems. The WWF-Care alliance addresses poverty alleviation and natural resource management in Tanzania and Mozambique by partnering with governments and private sector companies. Other conservation groups, such as Blue Ventures work at the intersection of environment, health, and education in Madagascar to rebuild tropical fisheries and coastal communities. However, these examples, are few and far between and we must maximize the impacts of conservation by mainstreaming a more systematic approach. Policy makers, companies, funders and NGOs must work in tandem to conserve our coastal ecosystems and provide benefits to the communities that depend on them.
IMAGE SOURCE: World Wildlife Fund
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