Speaker: James Watson, Associate Professor Fellow at University of Queensland and Director of Science and Research Initiative at the Wildlife Conservation Society
Humanity is exerting unprecedented pressure on the natural environment, driving a biodiversity extinction crisis and placing strain on natural resources. The challenge of biodiversity conservation is particularly acute in many regions across Asia, Africa and Latin America, where massive population and economic growth are dramatically changing the spatio-temporal dimensions of human pressure. Understanding the spatial distribution and growing dominance of different human pressures is vital for biodiversity conservation and is needed to help guide efforts to achieve ambitious global goals such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity. James will discuss recent advances in human pressure mapping, bringing together a number of global studies that assess how expanding human pressures are affecting progress towards global conservation progress, in particular the global protected area estate. He will use this to frame the conservation challenge facing us, and make the case for an urgent shift to global retention targets that aim to ensure those areas that are most important for biodiversity conservation (ranging from sites that stop extinction to those that still retain intact, species assemblages and ecological function) are first identified, then assessed against their risk of loss, and then prioritised via appropriate site-based conservation action assessments. He will provide some examples of how this could be possible and argue that we still have time to ‘bend the curve back’ for biodiversity and create a new, bold overarching strategy that can proactively guide global conservation efforts in the face of expanding human pressures and the changing climate.
James is Director of Science and Research at the Wildlife Conservation Society and a Professor at the University of Queensland. At UQ he leads the dynamic Green Fire Science research group (www.greenfirescience.com) and is also Director of the Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science. He currently serves on the International Panel for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Data and Knowledge Task Force, is a Research Fellow for the United Nation’s Environment Program-WCMC, a senior technical expert for United Nations Development Program’s Global Programme on Nature for Development and was a founding chair of the IUCN’s climate change specialist group. James was recently the global president of the Society for Conservation Biology and serves on editorial panels for Conservation Biology and Diversity and Distributions.