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SBSTTA Recommendation

. Agenda items

Agenda Items

3.1: Assessment of Biological Diversity and Methodologies for future assessments

3.2: Identification, monitoring and assessment of components of biological diversity and of process that have adverse impacts

3.3: Review and promotion of indicators on biological diversity

1. General advice

1. There was broad agreement that agenda items 3.1, 3.2 and 3.3 were inextricably interlinked and should therefore be considered together. It was acknowledged that the subject matter dealt with was highly complex and central to the Convention, particularly with respect to Article 7 but also to other Articles such as 6, 8, 16, 25 and 26. The background documents prepared by the Secretariat (documents UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/2/2, UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/2/3, UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/2/4) were generally considered to contain useful approaches to dealing with these issues.

2. The importance of capacity-building, development and enhancement of institutions (and concomitant financial support) in assisting developing countries in all aspect of their assessments was repeatedly emphasized.

3. The role the clearing-house mechanism should have in improving the flow of information was stressed. The possible need to develop interim measures within the clearing-house mechanism was raised.

4. It was noted that improvement of taxonomic knowledge was fundamental to the development of indicators and assessments.

5. It was emphasized that the assessment of biological diversity was ultimately the responsibility of each Party, so that national reporting should be the focus of assessment efforts. When necessary, regional bodies should be called upon to provide information to facilitate the assessment of biological diversity beyond national jurisdictions. The question of how the Secretariat and the SBSTTA would deal with national reports when they began to arrive was raised.

6. There was wide agreement that assessments should be: transparent; based on scientific principles; based initially on existing knowledge; focused; pragmatic; cost-effective; within a socio-economic context; management- or policy-oriented. Indicators were recognized as being a vital aspect of such assessments with the pressure-state-response framework being particularly useful. A distinction was made between assessments of biological diversity itself and the assessment of the state of knowledge of biological diversity. The former was relevant principally at national level, the latter principally at regional and global levels.

7. Calls were made for development and refinement of guidelines for national reporting. The UNEP country studies guidelines were mentioned in this context. The desirability of harmonization was emphasized as this would allow comparisons with similar ecosystems in different countries to be made, and also facilitate the development of overviews such as the Global Biodiversity Outlook. The need to develop a core set of indicators for national reporting which should be easily and widely measurable and policy-relevant was raised. Initially, emphasis should be laid on indicators already known to be successful. Traditional knowledge could play a valuable role in the development of indicators, as well as in monitoring and assessment.

8. However, the need for flexibility in approach to assessment, national reporting and indicator development in response to widely varying ecological conditions and national capacities was repeatedly raised. Regional or ecosystem approaches to the development of guidelines and indicators were widely advocated and it was noted that there was unlikely ever to be any one optimum method for assessment. The annex to the document prepared by the Secretariat (UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/2/2) may be useful in this regard as it sets out a series of methodologies, allowing choice of the most appropriate for a given set of circumstances.

9. A two-track approach to assessment and indicator development was suggested. In the short term actual assessments should be carried out of sectors and components of biological diversity which were already reasonably well known and understood; longer-term programmes involving research and capacity-building should be developed in areas needing advances in knowledge.

10. The distinction was made between inventorying and assessment or monitoring of biological diversity. The latter must be related to human impacts. It was also noted that, although in themselves costly and difficult processes, inventories of biological diversity were more straightforward than assessment of impacts on and changes to biological diversity. The latter required both improved knowledge and long-term monitoring. Biosphere reserves were noted as being potentially extremely valuable in the latter regard.

11. Coordination with related international conventions and processes was considered of great importance. This should serve to minimize duplication of effort. In addition, experience gained in reporting to these could be used to develop guidelines for reporting and indicator development within the remit of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

12. The desirability of preparing thematic assessments in line with the major themes and specific needs of the Convention was underlined. In particular, freshwater ecosystems were widely recognized as being in urgent need of global assessment. Calls for assessment of coastal and marine, grassland and wetland ecosystems, in addition to those others mentioned in the Secretariat document (UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/2/2), were also made.

13. The importance of assessing biological diversity in agricultural systems was widely acknowledged. It was stressed that such an assessment should take into account the work of the FAO. It was noted that there exists an interdependence between sustaining biological diversity and sustaining agriculture. It was also recognized that agricultural practices may affect biological diversity in agricultural ecosystems in both negative and positive ways and that when individual activities of many producers are considered in aggregate, the potential for significant offsite impacts on biological diversity exists. Because agriculture takes place across landscapes that often include other types of land-use, an improved understanding of the role of agriculture in the overall context of a region is needed.

14. It was also stressed that assessments of the status of biological diversity should, as a matter of priority, be incorporated into regional and global resource assessments as the basis for management decisions in sectors which had serious impacts on the status of biological diversity, particularly those concerning marine, agricultural and forest ecosystems. This would entail cooperation with agencies and organizations responsible for regional and global resource assessments, such as the FAO, and should operate with relevant conventions such as that covering straddling and highly migratory fish stocks.

15. It was noted that coordinated thematic assessments by countries would allow development of thematic overviews within the Global Biodiversity Outlook.

16. The proposed framework of processes and categories of activities that are or are likely to have significant adverse impacts on biological diversity (paragraphs 39-41 of document UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/2/3) received general support. A number of specific recommendations for amendment or modification were made. Radioactive contaminants were identified as an additional proximate threat, improper land management was identified as an activity having adverse effects on biological diversity, and national policy failure was considered an additional ultimate cause of threats. In addition, it was noted that consumptive use of wild species could be a contribution to conservation. It was suggested that assessments should be carried out using this framework to set priorities, it being acknowledged that these priorities would differ in different countries.

17. Some form of intersessional activity (for example a liaison group or informal working group) was considered appropriate to examine issues such as development of guidelines for national reporting and a review of indicator initiatives. It was also suggested that indicators and monitoring should be considered together as a standing item on the agenda of the SBSTTA.

2. Conclusions and recommendations

18. The SBSTTA recognizes the vital importance of monitoring and assessment of biological diversity, particularly with regard to Article 7 of the Convention, and further recognizes that the primary responsibility for undertaken monitoring and assessment of biological diversity lies with individual Parties.

19. The SBSTTA advocates a two-track approach to assessment and indicator development. In the short term, actual assessment should be carried out of sectors and components of biological diversity which were already reasonably well-known and understood. Use should, in particular, be made of indicators known to be operational. Longer-term programmes involving research and capacity-building should be developed in areas needing advances in knowledge.

2.1. Priority tasks

20. The SBSTTA considered that the following tasks should be accorded a high priority:

(i) Enhancing capacity-building, strengthening of institutions and funding in developing countries to carry out identification, monitoring and assessment within the remit of the Convention;

(ii) Development of the clearing-house mechanism to improve the flow of information both from national reporting and from the international scientific community;

(iii) Development and refinement of national guidelines to include: assessment and monitoring methodologies; indicators; thematic approaches; definition and clarification of terms; recommendations for harmonization;

(iv) Provision of a critical review of methodologies for inventory and assessment along the lines of that provided in Annex 1 of document UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/2/2;

(v) Development of a core set of indicators for national reports. Such indicators should in the first instance be based on those which are known to be operational;

(vi) Development of indicators in thematic areas important to the Convention, particularly coastal and marine ecosystems (including mangroves), agricultural biological diversity, forests and freshwater ecosystems;

(vii) Development of an indicative framework of processes and categories of activities that are or are likely to have significant adverse impacts on biological diversity;

(viii) Development of methods to strengthen links between natural resource assessments and assessments of biological diversity by introducing biological diversity dimensions into resource assessments, including assessments of forests, land resources, soils and marine living resources.

21. The SBSTTA noted that development of a core set of indicators would entail a review of current approaches to indicator development and development of indicators in thematic areas important to the Convention.

22. The SBSTTA considered that the following tasks were also important:

(i) Development of regional- or ecosystem-based guidelines for assessments;

(ii) Preparation of thematic assessments of knowledge and status of biological diversity on one or more of the following ecosystems: freshwater; coastal and marine; forests and woodlands; montane systems; rangelands, arid and semi-arid lands; grasslands; wetlands; agricultural systems;

(iii) Establishment of the costs and benefits of the conservation of biological diversity and its sustainable use;

(iv) Assistance in preparation of the Global Biodiversity Outlook;

(v) Elaboration and further interpretation of the terms in Annex I of the Convention, as discussed in detail in document UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/2/3;

(vi) Development of a review of methods for monitoring activities which have or may have adverse impacts on biological diversity, particularly with regard to pressure indicators and to the socio-economic context of the use of biological diversity as well as the impact from technology including biotechnology. Such a review should include options for mitigating the effects of these activities.

2.2. Proposed specific recommendations

23. In response to these priorities, the SBSTTA recommends to the Conference of the Parties that the Executive Secretary be requested to produce in consultation with a liaison or expert group, and for consideration by the next SBSTTA:

(i) A guideline report to assist Parties in addressing these issues. Such a report should contain an elaboration of assessment methodologies for meeting the requirements of the Convention, taking into account the contents of those national reports already prepared and reports to other conventions and international processes. Such a report should also contain: information on indicators and monitoring techniques; definitions and clarification of terms and recommendations for harmonization. Preparation of the guidelines should not tion of national reports already in progress;

(ii) A list of options for consideration by the SBSTTA for capacity-building in developing countries in the application of guidelines and indicators for subsequent national reports;

(iii) A listing of current approaches to indicator development to be tabled at the next meeting of the SBSTTA and recommendations for a preliminary core set of indicators of biological diversity, particularly those related to threats.

24. The SBSTTA recommends that the Conference of the Parties request that any guidelines or other products so produced be peer-reviewed by a roster of experts and competent institutions.

25. The SBSTTA also recommends to the Conference of the Parties that the Executive Secretary be requested to initiate consultation with other regional and global organizations, particularly the FAO, involved in assessments of biological resources within relevant economic sectors, to attempt to ensure that biological diversity is included in resource assessments undertaken by these regional and global organizations with the aim of influencing management decisions.

26. In view of the complexity of these issues and their central importance in the implementation of the Convention, the SBSTTA recommends that indicators, assessment and monitoring should be considered together as a standing item on the agenda of the SBSTTA.