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Improving science
- Biodiversity and development challenges in Africa

About US$245 million is currently spent annually by the international community for protected area management in Sub-Saraha Africa (SSA). The efficacy of these investments depends partly on the availability and reliability of information on the spatial distribution and condition of biodiversity. The currently available information on biodiversity is inadequate in several respects:

  • It is biased towards terrestrial biodiversity, and towards large mammals and birds. The greatest proportion of Africa‚Äôs biodiversity, invertebrates, is not well known to science.
  • For most species, only parts of their distribution ranges are documented. In many areas there is inadequate documentation, including in Ethiopia, the Congo basin, Angola and Mozambique.
  • Information on the biodiversity actually conserved in protected areas (eg in the form of species inventory lists) is widely lacking but is essential to document the success of conservation measures currently undertaken and to guide further conservation activities.
  • A vast amount of locally and regionally available biodiversity information is not connected and standardized, which is a significant impediment to making priorities comparable at regional to global scales.
  • Data on biodiversity condition (ie population size and trend, rather than simple presence or absence) is virtually absent. This information is essential for effective conservation of viable populations and for giving warning of impending problems well before they are irremediable.
  • Biodiversity measures are still commonly restricted to how many species there are, while there is very little information on qualitative aspects of biodiversity such as phylogenetic or functional diversity.

Other important areas of research that would support effective biodiversity policy include: quantification of the current and potential economic benefits provided by ecosystem services, and the consequences and costs of ecosystem destruction; understanding the link between ecosystem diversity and ecosystem integrity; methodologies for the integration of climate change adaptation strategies into conservation planning; and the development of a conceptual basis and methodology to incorporate biodiversity sustaining and generating processes and functional biodiversity into conservation strategies.

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