From the wide expanses of deep blue ocean and rugged jungle-clad volcanic peaks of the Pacific, to the rolling golden savannah and lush green of dense tropical rainforest in Africa, to the shimmering aquamarine waters and white sands of the Caribbean, countries in the ACP (Africa, Caribbean and Pacific) regions harbour some of the most stunning, and endangered, biodiversity on earth.
Eleven of the world’s twenty five biodiversity hotspots are found in the ACP countries, and their challenges to build and maintain healthy and thriving protected areas systems continue to echo environmental and development challenges facing the countries worldwide on our rapidly developing planet. The countries are often short on human and physical resources – capacity – the BIOPAMA programme aims to meet these challenges across all ACP countries.
Without well-managed and governed protected areas, ACP countries will see a further decline in their rich biodiversity. BIOPAMA not only filters vital information into the hands of the protected area managers, partners, government and communities on the ground, but also improves access to it and trains them how to use it more effectively. The resulting improved policy and decision making will boost protected areas, and in turn a country’s biodiversity.
At the heart of the BIOPAMA programme are knowledge centres, called Regional Observatories for Protected Areas and Biodiversity. Each of the ACP regions will host one – BIOPAMA has called for expressions of interest from countries and is now in the process of selecting one in each region to physically host and support it. The centres, however, will serve as more than sources of knowledge. They will facilitate networking of experts and institutions, and coordinate technical and policy support to national agencies and regional organizations.
Within the Regional Observatories, BIOPAMA is developing a Reference Information System that will function as the main gateway to data and decision support tools for PA management. At the heart of the Reference Information System (RIS) will be the Digital Observatory for Protected Areas, or DOPA, that is currently being developed by BIOPAMA partner EC-JRC (European Commission Joint Research Centre). Stakeholders will be trained in using the tools in the RIS, including DOPA, and ensure they have the capacity to continue refining it once the initial phase of BIOPAMA comes to a close in 2016.
Rather than tackling threats and loss of biodiversity directly, BIOPAMA is working closely with a large number of ongoing initiatives to provide knowledge and skills to those responsible for safeguarding protected areas and the species they harbour. In this way, a wide range of users will not only have heightened capacity for better management and governance, but can also build a foundation for knowledge via the regional centres, and provide training to new generations.
By investing in people, and by supporting initiatives to provide better access to better data and knowledge needed to manage and govern protected areas, BIOPAMA will improve management of our planet’s important biodiversity hotspots and ensure that protected areas provide benefits for all.