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Conservation-first, indicator-species-based biodiversity crediting
This methodology was designed for simplicity and rapid deployment. It was co-developed by indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLC) involved in grassroots conservation in the Colombian Amazon, then translated to global markets by a dedicated core of conservation scientists for the immediate use of like-groups.
Indigenous people steward an estimated 80% of the conserved biodiversity on Earth. This methodology is specifically designed to eliminate the scientific bureaucracy and market middlemen that could siphon money out of the commercialization of this service. Instead, it enables immediate and autonomous quantification and direct payments to these groups and their smallfarmer neighbors.
This methodology relies on indicator species. A simple but powerful concept: certain species of flora and fauna can survive only in functional ecosystems. A healthy specimen in the wild is a scientifically valid indicator that the ecosystem is intact. Proving the existence of indicator species using non-invasive monitoring techniques (such as game cameras, photographs, or audio recordings), respects the wildlife and can be easily, and immediately implemented on the ground by IPLC groups within traditional hunger-gatherer contexts.
This methodology issues voluntary biodiversity credits (VBCs). As such, it can never be used to provide “offsets” of any kind. Its authors do not believe that it will ever be ethical to trade a chimpanzee for a jaguar, or one IPLC group's jaguar for another's.
This methodology has been intentionally simplified. The scientists who have promoted it have used their expertise to democratize the measurements required for market inclusion, not in the name of scientific advancement, but in the name of immediate action.
One year of data loaded to open source code for biodiversity credit calculations. Where blue is credited area, and one second equals one month. Credited area is determined by an indicator species observation provided by IPLC, expanded to that species living range. Credit is one hectare of preserved biodiversity hotspot for 2 months.
To the clear aim of direct market access for IPLC, we have intentionally omitted the following scientific quantification methods:
- Identification of individuals of an indicator species, or calculations of population change. This is a conservation-only methodology — you either have a harpy eagle on your land or you don't.
- eDNA or other sophisticated scientific methods of biodiversity characterization. On-the-ground experience inevitably leads to the simplification of scientific equipment applied in deep tropical forests.
- Ecosystem or habitat quantification at project level. Public data is sufficient, and more comprehensive than projects can hope to supply. Additionally, we have learned from carbon-markets to avoid offloading public data requirements such as deforestation rates to project developers.
- Species richness metrics at project level. Many of the most valuable systems on earth are poorly characterized. Our pilot was conducted in a biodiversity hotspot in former FARC territory in the Colombian Amazon. No research has been conducted in this region for >20 years which does not in any way diminish its global value in terms of endemic plants, rare species, or grassroots conservationists. Like so many threatened ecosystems, we no longer have the luxury of 20 years of academic research to economically protect this zone, nor should this be a barrier to its inclusion in biodiversity crediting systems.
We acknowledge that these compromises may mean lower market values for the VBCs issued under this standard and consider it an acceptable tradeoff for omitting scientific standards which are exclusionary to the people we directly seek to incentivize.
This methodology was co-developed with IPLC. To date, leaders from eighteen indigenous communities and hundreds of indigenous smallfarmers in the Colombian Amazon have directly contributed to the design and piloting of this methodology. It is currently being considered for adoption by IPLC groups in Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Suriname, Mexico, Panama, Bolivia, Guatamala, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, the Phillipines, Gabon, Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, Australia, New Zealand, the US, and Canada. It has been reviewed and refined privately and publically by hundreds of global experts using biological and anthropological considerations for biodiversity preservation, scientific understandings of complex adaptive systems, market needs for fungibility, and the urgency of minimizing further irreversible extinctions.
This methodology was designed for behavior change. IPLC can preserve or traffick rare species. They have unrestricted access to hunt or study the rarest and most valuable species on earth. They have traditional knowledge that far exceeds our best botanical and behavioral science. We have no choice but to fully respect their autonomy. This methodology is intentionally designed to economically incentivize positive role models within IPLC and enables them to self-reinforce traditional ways of life which conserve and retain knowledge of biodiversity in its fullest expression.
We remain hopeful and determined that this methodology will have the intended effect of strengthening the people with the biggest global impact on conserving biodiversity.