Frequently asked questions and answers from the hactivists at Savimbo

Q: Who are you guys and why did you think you could do this?

We're hactivists! Well, hactivists from two different cultures. Like the kindergarteners in The Culture Code we didn't think — we forgot about our status in the scientific hierarchy — and we just did. The truth is, it took abandonment of our egos, transdisciplinary thinking, overeducated geniuses in two civilizations, twenty years of grinding grassroots activism, some very accomplished data scientists, and the use of Indigenous ecological knowledge to come up with this method. Automating it was just a side benefit for IP and LC. The carbon market hasn't been fair. The biodiversity market can learn from that.

If we had a flag it would read: "This planet is awesome!"

Q: What is a Voluntary Biodiversity Credit?

A Voluntary Biodiversity Credit (VBC) is a unit for the preservation or restoration of biodiversity on a specific area of land. The voluntary part means VBCs cannot be offset. In other words just because you paid for someone to preserve or restore biodiversity somewhere, does mean you have permission to destroy biodiversity somewhere else.

Some people and companies will pay to preserve other species just because they care, and they can. A VBC is an easy way for someone who doesn't know you, doesn't live in your ecosystem, to feel safe that they are paying you for a concrete action that is well tracked. Sometimes these are certified, sometimes they are just used as an outcome metric to support actions.

The nice thing about using a credit system, is that you can measure biodiversity gains in multiple ecosystems, or with multiple actions. Buyers can buy credits from a wide variety of projects. You could buy credits from increasing pollinators like bees, conservation of intact ecosystems, restoration of ecosystems, or eradication of invasive species.

Biodiversity credits are part of the evolution towards recognizing natural resources as an important part of the world economy. Credits just mean that one kind of outcome metric is roughly equal to another.

Q: What is the unit of your Voluntary Biodiversity Credit?

We've worked really hard to use a unit, which works well in all ecosystems, with all kinds of actions. It even works for tracking ecosystem impacts for people who want to be honest about how they have hurt biodiversity. Our unit is normalized to: Area + Value + 𝚫Integrity + Time

  • Area in hectares

  • Ecosystem value (14 schemas normalized by experts to Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Bronze).

  • 𝚫Integrity where a -1 means a totally destroyed ecosystem, and a +1 means a totally intact ecosystem with no other funding. Partial gains get fractional crediting.

  • Time of 2 months

Q: Why would a corporation buy a biodiversity credit?

Individuals, governments, non-profits, and businesses are increasingly recognizing the need to invest in planetary health. A healthy ecosystem is important to reduce the risks of doing business, including the risk of natural disasters, social unrest, and regulatory risks. While many people simply want to invest in biodiversity because it is the right thing to do, today, even those with an eye on the bottom line recognize that the stability of their business is dependent on the stability of the underlying planetary resource base. Therefore, biodiversity credits are gaining momentum as either supplements to carbon credits, or as a superior indicator of ecosystem health in some cases.

Biodiversity credits are based on complexity science applied to complex dynamic systems. The scientific evidence points to the ability of these systems to self-regulate and self-heal when stewarded according to Indigenous wisdom. By creating verifiable measures to prove the sustained health of the ecosystem, biodiversity credits provide everyone the ability to participate in the restoration and preservation of intact ecosystems.

Q: Are indicator species enough to quantify ecosystems?

  • "In a Biodiversity Crediting System indicator species do not represent a fuller list or richness within a system nor the functions performed within that system. This is a simple approach that may not represent its true credit value. Everything small and large counts!"

Indicator species are not enough to quantify ecosystems. They are enough to conserve them. By definition, ecosystems are unquantifiable.

Ecosystems like the Tropical Andean Amazon, where this methodology was written are complex, now chaotic ecosystems. We make no attempt to fully quantify them, even the best, most complete, scientific methods we have right now would still be incomplete.

This methodology is written to conserve them.

We fully support more complete scientific study in our area. Researchers are invited (even shamelessly begged) to come study it! But with almost no scientific work in this area, a 16% deforestation rate, and no other sources of funding, if we waited for full system quantification, there would be no ecosystem left to measure!

This methodology is for IP and LCs guarding ecosystems like ours. People who might know everything about it, but in an Indigenous language, or with kinesthenic knowledge. Indicator species are an easy way to communicate across the quantification gap. A proxy metric so everyone can agree the system is worth preserving for study, and that it HAS been preserved.

Q: Why are you just measuring jaguars?

  • "As I understand it’s a Jaguar Protection Plan with the hope of maintaining some Biodiversity."

Hahaha. There are a lot of jaguars in our material! Actually, on our site we measure 54 indicator species. A list reviewed by three independent regional biologists with surprisingly few changes. The truth is, we often talk about the jaguar because its an indicator species found throughout the Amazon and its a good example of how the methodology works. Its Rare, Endangered, Umbrella, Keystone, Sentinal, and Emblematic to both Indigenous groups, scientists, and the general public.

But we believe all species are important and we also track and credit from rare mammals like the Bush Dog, birds like the Harpy Eagle, trees like the Espingo, and snakes like the Boa constrictor. The truth is a good project should be demonstrating multiple species, and multiple kingdoms of species.

But this isn't that hard with IP and LCs because people who really live in harmony with abundant ecosystems naturally tend to be proud of, and want to share, a variety of the wildlife that surrounds them.

We're a playful and curious species at heart. This work tends to bring that out in people.

Q: How are you dealing with ecosystem characterization using different ecosystem proxies and taxonomies?

We're trying to completely eliminate the need for complex ecosystem quantification. It's a barrier to entry for Indigenous groups. Instead, we rely on open data from a number of qualified bodies such as UICN, WWF, and Biodiversity hotspots and universities in our area.

The methodology is purposefully designed so that no matter what the ecosystem, the local and Indigenous people can identify indicator species and utilize the methodology. We have been exploring a variety of ecosystems, including marine systems, and are finding that the methodology is robust and can be applied even to very diverse types of ecosystems.

Q: What is the motivation behind this methodology?

The ISBM was developed with one purpose in mind: rewarding the true guardians of the biodiverse regions with direct payments so they could scale local services.

Q: What are the key features of the methodology for IP and LC projects?

The Savimbo Biodiversity Methodology emphasizes the involvement of IP and LC in project implementation and decision-making. It recognizes the importance of trusted human coders for data collection, addresses potential leakage, controls non-permanence, and accounts for risks, uncertainties, and SDG contributions.

Perhaps the best thing for IP and LCs is that the methods here are easy for them to use, but find welcoming support in the scientific, and corporate communities. People naturally understand indicator species and find it easier to communicate about them as a proxy metric than something intangible like carbon.

Q: How can IP and LC projects benefit from using this methodology?

By adopting the Savimbo Biodiversity Methodology, IP and LC projects can effectively quantify and credit their biodiversity conservation efforts. This can enhance their recognition, credibility, and access to potential financial incentives, supporting the sustainable management of their lands and resources while contributing to global biodiversity conservation goals.

We think they really benefit from direct payments. By choosing a methodology that is fair, transparent, and inexpensive to use they can reduce intermediaries and language barriers and communicate through data that everyone understands.

Q: What about studies that have shown that giving IP and LC direct payments can corrupt their cultures or create unintended consequences?

Fundamentally, there is no outside authority that should tell IP and LC what is good for them. Savimbo's founders include Indigenous peoples and we consult with our IP and LC global panel on a weekly basis.

This methodology was meant to be fair trade, for fair work. The work was done, it should be paid for. It is not our role to determine whether IP and LCs are capable of managing money. We do seek to eliminate interference in IP andLC's affairs and thus restore full autonomy through to determine what they want to do with the money they deserve for their work in preserving the Earth's ecosystems for millennia.

We do make transparent tools available to communities for accounting. We think communities with a proven track record of conservation should have full autonomy in funds management. But we also think these communities would benefit from being able to track and demonstrate what they did with the funding so they can get more from other sources, for other types of climate or conservation actions.

Biodiversity might be the easiest to start measuring, but it is certainly not the only ecological activity IP and LCs are capable of managing themselves.

Q: Why don't you use measures of forest health typical to carbon credit systems?

Measurements of forest health today typically measure the size of the forest by looking for signs of deforestation, such as a reduction in the density of the trees, or deterioration of the health of the trees and large fauna around the edges of the forest. These measures are not relevant to biodiversity for several reasons:

  1. The ISBM measures biodiversity by measuring the actual species on the land. This is a direct, rather than an indirect, measure of the flora and fauna of the location.

  2. By the time there is forest thinning or damage to the edges on satellite, the biodiversity deterioration has often been going on for years, below the canopy and it may be too late to save certain species.

  3. The methodologies for these measures, such as satellite imagery, cannot be used by the Indigenous people who are the guardians of more than 80% of the intact biosystems on Earth. To reward the people guarding the land, we need to find measures that can directly credit the people doing the work. Overly technical means of measurement tend to end up benefiting the technology providers, not the actual land guardians.

  4. ISBM reflects the latest understandings of complexity theory and the actual behavior of complex adaptive systems. By using multiple indicator species, the methodology also takes into account the differences in the ecosystem due to changing weather patterns, seasonal and other types of cycles (for example, animals that come out with irregular patterns, like 17-year locusts). Any of these changes might cause a change in the species being observed within a healthy ecosystem.

  5. ISBM can be applied to many types of bioregions. While it was developed in the Amazon jungle, we are researching the application of the methodology as it pertains to marine life. It can also be used in national parks and forests where animals are tagged, in arid zones, arctic areas, and other ecosystems. There is no need to develop new types of measures: anywhere that biodiversity exists is a place where indicator species exist.

  6. The methodology creates a common language between IP and LC and the scientific community. By correlating species recognized by the Indigenous people with species recognized by science, we are increasing our common understanding, bridging communities, and expanding the body of scientific knowledge.

  7. The ISBM creates peer pressure among the Indigenous peoples and among their tribes for the preservation of indicator species. By rewarding social behaviors and activities for conservation, we create positive peer role models within communities, and between communities. This type of positive social pressure is exactly what is needed to generate long-term outcomes for increasing biodiversity.

  8. A large animal (eagle, jaguar) may have a range that also covers adjacent farms, and the ISBM pays the smallfarmers and property owners who are maintaining practices that allow the free roaming of these animals. This means that farmers can potentially make money from observations of indicator species on their neighbors land. Farmers who might see some of the predators as pests now can see them as a source of income. They will also experience peer pressure from their neighbors to tolerate the animals on their land because the neighbors will also get rewarded. This virtuous cycle can expand the potential of these biosystems to survive when animals can co-exist with people. Furthermore, it allows animals to carry other species with them in the form of seeds, insects, and other types of pollinators who can now migrate from a healthy ecosystem to one that is restoring itself.

Q: Why is the home range normalized to a circle?

  • "Is the circle overlaid on a land cover or other layer so it includes only suitable species niches/distributions? Otherwise, the circle could be a significant overestimate of the home range for that individual."

While it is possible to map the home range of any particular individual based on tagging or other sophisticated methods, it can be both invasive, and overly technical. Therefore, for simplicity, fungibility, and market standardization, the ISBM standardizes observations to circular area of publicly acknowledged home range.

We recognize that species do not range within a circular area, nor can we know whether they were spotted at the middle or edge of their home range.

Other methodologies will likely incorporate more sophisticated sampling. This methodology was written for IP and LC, and recognized experts in the field have expressly indicated this compromise is acceptable, although this simplification may affect market pricing for these credits.

Q: Why don’t you identify individual [jaguars, sharks, etc] it’s so easy!

Because while it might be easy for a jaguar, or a mountain gorilla, its NOT easy for a harpy eagle, a sea turtle, etc. And we’re writing a methodology that works globally, for IP and LC.

We accept that this means we will lose the ability to prove population growth, and density at a sophisticated level, and believe this compromise may also affect market pricing. Because of this compromise, the methodology accounts for multiple observations of animals by creating a union of the territories in which the indicator species are sighted. We cannot know, because we didn’t ask, if two observations are the same jaguar, or two jaguars. When two observations overlap, the area in which they overlap is paid once, not twice.

Q: Is the Savimbo methodology open source or privately licensed?

The Savimbo ISBM methodology is the intellectual property of Savimbo Inc., which has made it open-source and free for the public to use along with its code. We ask that you cite us, credit us, and the methodologies authors fully in any scientific use.

We are working with a number of certifiers, projects, scientists, and global regulators to spread the methodology as widely as possible. Our intent was never to restrict use to Savimbo smallfarmers and Indigenous groups, but instead to shift climate markets in favor of Savimbo's growers, with the understanding that many projects might use the methodology who were unaffiliated.

Savimbo is a B-corp.

  • The for-profit arm Savimbo Inc. does receive some royalties for the use of the methodology depending on the certifier. We accept capital there to expand the methodology or its technical services.

  • The non-profit arm Empulsive Ink, accepts donations for the time and expenses of our independent panel of Indigenous leaders who also comment on biodiversity crediting, and biodiversity markets internationally. These arms are separate and operate independently. Not all of our independent leaders are proponents of biodiversity crediting, or affiliated with Savimbo projects. (Legal name Empulsive Inc. in 88-1869344)

Q: Why don’t you have a buffer pool in this methodology?

  • “Do you need to deal with a buffer pool? You only address permanence by mentioning the inherent impermanence of biodiversity. With a reduced emphasis on permanence, when would a buffer pool be needed?”

The ISBM does not require a buffer pool. Our methodology has tangible credits, based on achieved outcomes.

However, some of the crediting bodies that use our methodology do assign a buffer pool based on the length of a project or other factors.

Q: How should projects select indicator species in this methodology?

Indicator species are selected based on their ability to represent the ecosystem and the availability of public data supporting their ratings. Species have to be acceptable both to the scientific community and the IP and LC (who use different taxonomies). The selection process takes into account factors such as species' ecological roles, sensitivity to habitat changes, and public data availability.

Q: How many indicator species should a project select?

A project needs to have characterized all the available indicator species in their ecosystem, and show data from three indicator species in two taxonomic kingdomes to be valid.

However, Savimbo recommends data from 15-30 species of different types for the project. On the ground, the IP and LC will use those species that are most meaningful to them, but it may be that because of changes in seasons or weather, certain species will be more abundant during different periods of time. Furthermore, adding additional species prevents over-compensation for one species, and it brings awareness to the richness of the ecosystems.

Q: Trees don't move. Why would they qualify as an indicator species?

Trees chosen as indicator species should be those that are particularly rare or sensitive to a myriad of factors. For example, certain plants require pollinators who would not be present if there is significant damage to the air quality. Furthermore, during the initial monitoring period, our Indigenous teams were able to identify species of plants and trees that had never before been identified in the global community.

The methodology gives IP and LC the incentive to provide information on rare and sensitive flora that may have gone undiscovered otherwise. Often these species are not high in carbon load, and in some instances, they have been cleared for invasive species that were higher in carbon load.

By issuing biodiversity credits for rare native species, we help projects that were better ecologically for the zone, make as much or more revenue than projects that only focused on trees for their carbon value.

Q: How is non-permanence controlled in the methodology?

Non-permanence is an inherent characteristic of biodiversity. We do not believe that promises about future outcomes lead to good changes in behavior. We believe that we need to reward what is, regularly and in good faith to show that species are worth preserving.

We often compare this to riding in a taxi. The taxi driver might only get paid for one ride at a time, but he takes care of his car because that is how he makes his living. We are paying for a biodiversity load one year at a time, but we work with IP and LC who take care of their species because that is how they have already learned to live.

Q: Is hunting forbidden in the methodology?

We do not tell IP and LCs how to manage their land. Instead, we ask them to show clearly that any hunting occurring on the land has not impacted animals at a population level to qualify for crediting. Most Indigenous groups and local communities we work with have lived for thousands of years as hunter-gatherers without hurting their ecosystems.

We defer to them for population management, and reward evidence of adequately managed populations.

Q: Does the biodiversity methodology align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?

Yes, the Savimbo Biodiversity Methodology aligns with the SDGs. Projects following this methodology are required to report their contributions to the SDGs using their certifiers tooling. We also encourage the use of the Ecological Benefits Framework which we have found helpful for ecologically complex projects.

Q. What might future iterations of the methodology include?

We do see the potential for negative integrity scores for invasive species in future. But not in this version of the methodology.

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