Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services
A precise overview of the status and trends of biodiversity is difficult to arrive at due to an absence of data on biodiversity in the country. For example, there is a need to undertake more comprehensive studies on avifauna, hoofed animals, mammals and aquatic plants. Very little is known about flora in relation to fauna (apart from the need to independently update national inventories of fauna, particularly wild fauna). Also, most of the gene banks located within the National Institute of Agrarian Research were completely destroyed during the political/military conflict in 1998. In spite of several challenges to implementation, several successes can be reported on as highlighted below.
To date, 6 protected areas have been created comprising 15% of the country’s territory. In addition, one biosphere reserve (Archipel des Bijagos) has been created covering 10,000 km2 or 11.1% of the territory, and the country envisions that the most sensitive areas of the reserve will be protected under law by 2015. Activities are currently under way to create 2 terrestrial protected areas and 2 corridors for fauna conservation by 2014, thereby increasing the coverage of protected areas from 15% to 24%. Moreover, several corridors between protected areas have been identified, as have transboundary protected areas (Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Senegal) which should also be protected under law in the short term. Communities in the eastern part of the country are benefitting socioeconomically as a result of their proximity to protected areas. In situ conservation activities undertaken with NGOs have contributed significantly to the establishment of the protected areas system. Ex situ conservation efforts begun during the colonial era continue to be implemented.
Agriculture is the economic base of the country. However, the agrarian system in place in the country is responsible for a significant loss of biodiversity, also making the country more vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Although the agricultural potential is estimated at approximately 35% of the country’s total surface, the actual cultivated surface is estimated to be only 18%. Cereals such as rice, millet, maize, sorgho and fonio are the basic dietary staples of the population, occupying 80% of the cultivated surface. Peanuts and tubers are cultivated to a lesser degree. Sixty per cent of the rice produced in Guinea-Bissau is cultivated in mangrove ecosystems. Zoogenetic resources, in order of importance, include cows, goats, swine and sheep.
The country’s waters are among the world’s most well stocked with fish and contain a high level of diversity (fish, crustaceans, mollusks). It was recently estimated that demersal species represent a biomass of 479,000 tons (58% bony fish, 15% skate, 15% shark, 3% crustacean, 6% cephalopod, 1.8% gasteropod, 0.9% echinoderm). The fisheries sector is divided into two sub-sectors (artisanal and industrial) and, according to a 2009 study, contributes more than 40% to the national budget (representing 4% of the GDP). The sector also employs slightly more women (51.7%) than men. However, aquatic ecosystems are the most adversely affected in the country.
Terrestrial ecosystems are being degraded as a result of human-induced pressures. Between 1990 and 2007, deforestation occurred at the rate of 50% for dense forests, 15% for open forests and 13% for savannah forests. Mangrove forests are almost intact, placing Guinea-Bissau twelfth among countries at the global level with the highest rates of mangrove coverage, and second in Africa, after Nigeria. In spite of anthropogenic pressures on forests, cartographic studies reveal that forest characteristics have nevertheless remained intact. Forest carbon stocks are significant in terms the potential contribution of Guinea-Bissau to the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) under the Kyoto Protocol. Some community forests have been classified.
At present, rare species and those facing extinction include the manatee, hippopotamus, crocodile, marine turtle, different species of monkeys, chimpanzees and buffalo.
Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)
The monitoring of protected areas remains weak. In spite of several positive actions undertaken in regard to protected areas, the illegal exploitation and poaching of resources continue to be a problem. The level of participation of women in protected areas management is low.
Terrestrial ecosystems have degraded due to traditional itinerant agricultural practices, exploitation of forest resources, poaching, hunting practices, bushfires, mining exploitation, which leads to soil erosion, among other negative consequences. Although forest legislation was updated in 2011, there is a need to implement its provisions, particularly in regard to rational forest resource exploitation and reforestation. Legislation for wild fauna urgently requires both updating and harmonization with CBD objectives. Cashew monoculture and random climatic events provoke significant losses to biodiversity, while periodic diseases due to sanitation problems ravage populations of farm animals, creating serious socioeconomic and cultural repercussions.
Pressures on fish resources are constant. Illegal fishing, overfishing, poaching, non-respect for the arts of fishing, at both artisanal and industrial levels, are contributing factors. A large majority of industrial foreign fishing vessels, whose main catch is shrimp, do not have the legal rights to fish territorial waters. It is believed that government and national partners should pursue efforts to monitor the number of fishing licenses issued, tax fishing activities in general, conduct research on local species diversity and the potential they can contribute to development. Mangrove ecosystems are adversely affected by activities related to the smoking of fish.
Invasive alien species do not pose a threat to the country at present and, consequently, very little attention has been given to measures required to deal with invasive plant species.
Unregulated trade and the irrational exploitation of wood of high commercial value, such as Afzelia africana, Khaya senegalensis and Pterocarpus erinaceus, have placed these tree species under pressure. Hoofed animals and primates are also under pressure for similar reasons.
Capacity development for biodiversity planning and the application of research are required.
Extreme poverty is a general threat to the sustainable use of resources in the country.