Ecosystem Approach Sourcebook - Case-Study Details

1. Project Details
Author or Responsible Organization Radoslav Barzev
Project Title Consolidation of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor
Date of Publication 01/01/2003
Project Status Ongoing
Project Start Date
Project End Date
Countries Belize
Costa Rica
El Salvador
Regions Latin America and the Caribbean
Funding Source
2. Background to Project
Project Issue/Problem Statement The main purpose of the MBC initiative is to “promote Sustainable use, conservation and management of the Biodiversity of Mesoamerica” 1.Strengthen the management capacities of the MBC into the environmental institutions. 2.Create the conditions for the economic and social sustainability of the MBC. 3.Initiate the process of construction of Biological Corridors on a local level, in each country of the region.
Project Description Mesoamerica is defined as the Region comprising of four states of south-eastern Mexico (Campeche, Chiapas, Quintana Roa and Yucatán) and the seven countries of Central America: Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua y Panama. In this small territory exist more than 60 forms of vegetation and 30 eco-regions, from semi-deserted to humid forests with annual precipitation of more than 7 meters (UNDP 1997). In the region, it is estimated that there is a population above the 34 million inhabitants. It comes as no surprise then that environmental problems are narrowly linked to such factors as the tendency of changes in land use and the distribution and access to the natural resources and productive resources. The Mesoamerican Biological Corridor (MBC) is a cooperation initiative between the seven Central-American countries and the southern states of Mexico, to harmonize and execute in a coordinated way the activities aimed to the conservation of biological diversity and to promote sustainable human development in their territories. The MBC initiative is inspired on the conviction, that biodiversity conservation on the long term cannot be achieved if poverty reduction and the strengthening of the economical viability of the countries of the region are not worked as a whole.
Highlighted Aspects of Ecosystem Approach Principle 1: The MBC Project has promoted a series of studies and processes to identify priority ecosystem goods and services, establish their economic value, social-economic activities related to their use and distribution of benefits among stakeholders. The purpose is to promote negotiation processes among stakeholders in order to obtain higher benefits for all parties after an optimal management of the particular ecosystem goods and services involved. Principle 2: To materialize the idea of a Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, the Project has promoted the establishment of local Biological Corridors, in order to prove that local stakeholders are capable of managing their own natural resources, and once they feel a greater benefits and participation into the management itself they can become more responsible and involved into the sustainable use of the particular ecosystem goods and services. Principle 3: One of the main activities of the MBC Project is to promote a dialogue among different stakeholders, but also stakeholders from neighboring watersheds, communities and countries from the region. Ecosystems do not obey political or country borders, therefore, for an appropriate management is necessary to involve stakeholders over borders. Principle 4: The MBC Project has started the implementation of Payment for Environmental Goods and Services Programs, in different countries of the region. The idea is to develop mechanisms for the internalization of the environmental costs, caused by human activities. The process follows 8 basic steps: 1) Identification of Environmental Problem (Environmental impact, stakeholders, economic activities affected and Ecosystem goods and services involved); 2) Determine the physical environmental variables; 3) Measure these environmental variables in physical terms; 4) Apply economic valuation methodologies; 5) Generate environmental economic indicators; 6) Propose economic mechanisms for internalizing environmental costs and for capturing and distribution of environmental benefits; 7) Negotiation process among stakeholders on the mechanisms proposed and; 8) Implementation of the mechanisms that have been adopted by most of the stakeholders involved. Principle 5: The area of action of the MBC Project is more like with the institutions involved with the management of the environment and the natural resources. The project does not work directly on the territory. But the concept of principle 5 is utilized in establishing the local biological corridors. Principle 6: The MBC Project considers the ecosystem structure and functions, but it is mainly addressing the existing asymmetries among the 8 countries from the Mesoamerican region, which could be of technical or political nature. Principle 7: One of the main concerns of the MBC Project is the existence of several ecosystems in the region, but the region is divided politically in 8 countries including several indigenous communities. MBC Project understands and focuses the asymmetries of the different countries in terms of policies, laws, technical development on different environmental issues, size of ecosystems, distribution of ecosystems among countries and cultural differences inside and among the countries. The temporal scale is also a great concern, because results from the processes promoted by the project would eventually be seen in the long run; while many political and social changes are happening in a very short periods of time. Principle 8: Through the implementation of Payment for Environmental Goods and Services Programs, the MBC project intends to make stakeholders understand that future benefits of conservation are higher than short-term benefits coming out of unsustainable productive or extractive activities. There are of course costs involved in the process of doing conservation (in terms of education, training, and financing the conservation measures), and these costs can be called “preventive”. Preventive measures usually are lower than mitigation measures. Therefore, investing in conservation is cheaper and more beneficial than trying to solve environmental problems due to the use of unsustainable, short term productive practices. Principle 9: The MBC project, as an effort to strengthen the environmental institutions, recognizes clearly the existence of constant changes on different levels. But the main focus of the project is on the political and social changes that may threaten the process of integration of Mesoamerica and the regional conservation process. Principle 10: The MBC Project, through the Payment of Ecosystem Goods and Services Programs intends to promote the internalization of the environmental costs generated by the society. The idea is to promote the sustainable use, which basically means that it is possible and necessary the use of the ecosystem goods and services, since these once guarantee the survival of the human specie. But it also means that humans should seek productive alternatives that generate higher economic benefits and reduce negative impacts on ecosystems, generating lower environmental costs. Principle 11: One of the mandates of the MBC project is to generate information and also to harmonize existing information in the region. In that sense, the project has different on going efforts: 1) Help establish a regional monitoring system on biological diversity and regional network on environmental information; 2) Help generate economic environmental indicators for the ecosystem goods and services of the region; 3) Systematize knowledge existing in the region (productive practices, indigenous knowledge, etc.); Systematize existing environmental laws and policies in the region; 4) Disseminate, according to the particular situation, the pertinent technical, scientific, political or legal information to specifically identified relevant stakeholders. Principle 12: The MBC Project’s focus is on the institutions involved with management of the environment and the natural resources, but through the different operational activities the project is working and affecting on all levels. It has incidence on high political levels (harmonizing policies), and then goes to community level (implementing local biological corridors). The project involves government, NGOs, communities and private sector. It also helps establish dialog among the different sectors of government (e.g. authorities of the environment, agriculture, commerce, etc.). The project has the unique particularity of being able to do incidence on the different levels in the 8 countries of the region. And finally, the staff of the project is formed by different specialist: lower and specialist in institutional strengthening, biodiversity specialist, environmental economist and communication expert; besides, in each one of the 8 countries there is there is a project representatives that makes sure that the concept of the Great Initiative of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor will be reflected into the Operational Plans of the different Ministries of the Environment, and ultimately into the operational plans of other institutions such as: Ministry of Agriculture, Commerce, etc.
3. Sectors and Biomes
Biomes Forest Biodiversity
Mountain Biodiversity
4. Tools and Approaches
Tools and Approaches   Relevance
Public Participation 3-High
- Methods for stakeholder consultation 3-High
Governance, Law and Policy 3-High
- Legislation and treaties 3-High
Management and Incentives 3-High
Data, Monitoring and Modelling 3-High
5. Issues
Issues   Relevance
Governance, Law and Policy 3-High
Public Participation 3-High
Sustainable Use of Biodiversity 3-High
6. Ecosystem Approach
Principles and Operational Guidance   Relevance
(Only if NOT relevant)
Principle 1: The objectives of management of land, water and living resources are a matter of societal choices 3-High
Principle 2: Management should be decentralized to the lowest appropriate level 3-High
Principle 3: Ecosystem managers should consider the effects (actual or potential) of their activities on adjacent and other ecosystems 3-High
Principle 4: Recognizing potential gains from management, there is usually a need to understand and manage the ecosystem in an economic context 3-High
Principle 5: Conservation of ecosystem structure and functioning, in order to maintain ecosystem services, should be a priority target of the ecosystem approach 2-Medium
Principle 6: Ecosystem must be managed within the limits of their functioning 2-Medium
Principle 7: The ecosystem approach should be undertaken at the appropriate spatial and temporal scales 3-High
Principle 8: Recognizing the varying temporal scales and lag-effects that characterize ecosystem processes, objectives for ecosystem management should be set for the long term 3-High
Principle 9: Management must recognize the change is inevitable 3-High
Principle 10: The ecosystem approach should seek the appropriate balance between, and integration of, conservation and use of biological diversity 3-High
Principle 11: The ecosystem approach should consider all forms of relevant information, including scientific and indigenous and local knowledge, innovations and practices 3-High
Principle 12: The ecosystem approach should involve all relevant sectors of society and scientific disciplines 3-High
Operational Guidance D: Carry out management actions at the scale appropriate for the issue being addressed, with decentralization to lowest level, as appropriate 3-High
Operational Guidance E: Ensure intersectoral cooperation 3-High
7. Lessons Learned and the Outcomes
Lessons Learned
Other Information
8. References
References Radoslav Barzev. 2003. Case Study: The Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, a platform for sustainable development.
9. Contact Details
Contact Person Ms Leah Mohammed
Job Title Intern
Organization CBD
Address MOntreal World Trade Centre
393 Saint-Jaques, 8th floor
Postal Code H2Y 1N9
City Montreal
ZIP/State/Province Quebec
Country Canada
Telephone 514-288-2220
E-mail Address

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  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme