This Week In Biodiversity: Choose Your Own Adventure

The argument over voluntary approaches to conserve at risk-species like the greater sage-grouse isn’t waning. Meanwhile, new research applying the mitigation hierarchy to the agriculture and forestry sectors finds net positive impacts for biodiversity are possible and a separate report finds commodity subsidies driving deforestation vastly outweigh conservation finance to protect forests.

The argument over voluntary approaches to conserve at risk-species like the greater sage-grouse isn’t waning. Meanwhile, new research applying the mitigation hierarchy to the agriculture and forestry sectors finds net positive impacts for biodiversity are possible and a separate report finds commodity subsidies driving deforestation vastly outweigh conservation finance to protect forests.

This article was originally posted in the Mitigation Mail newsletter. Click here to read the original.

21 April 2015 | Greetings! In honor of those Mitmail readers whose next few weeks are dominated by preparing for exams or handing in dissertations, we thought we’d provide you all with some homework.

Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to brush up on one of the “Three Cs”: commodities, candidate species, and carbon. Each is an emerging force that’s poised to radically change business-as-usual for biodiversity conservation and finance. So if you normally skim over these issues as you read our news briefs, this month pick a “C” to take a few minutes to get up to speed on.


If you choose commodities: Read our latest on applying the mitigation hierarchy to the agricultural and forestry sectors. Then get some background on the challenge: learn how commodity subsidies driving deforestation vastly outweigh conservation finance to protect forests, and how questions are emerging regarding the effectiveness of sustainable commodity roundtables. Finally, read about a new way to pair conservation finance and commodities, in which the Althelia Climate Fund is helping a sustainable cocoa project in Peru use carbon finance as collateral against loans to get the project off the ground. The project will then shift over time to sustainable cocoa production as its main revenue stream.


If you choose candidate species: Start with this piece introducing the concept of Habitat Exchanges, which help entities that impact imperiled – but not yet federally listed – species to pay to restore and protect critical habitat elsewhere, in order to keep those species from further decline. (Though arguably the system is set up for the energy and mining industries – not so much other sectors like agriculture.) Sounds good in theory, right? But as the first conservation bank for the greater sage-grouse prepares to open its doors in Wyoming, it’s beating back attacks from both sides of the political spectrum over whether voluntary mitigation really is the right mechanism to keep the grouse off the Endangered Species List.

If you choose carbon:
You’ll also want to read the article on how a sustainable cocoa project in Peru is using carbon finance to leverage start-up capital but isn’t exactly a carbon project. Then for a counterpoint, check out Mongabay’s reporting on efforts to get carbon projects going in Brazil’s Cerrado, which illustrates the larger point that carbon storage and biodiversity values don’t always go hand-in-hand. But! A carbon market that assigns higher values to biodiversity-rich areas could help undo fifty years of biodiversity decline on land, according to a new study. You have the weekend to ponder this challenge, dear reader.

Finally, Forest Trends is hiring
a Senior Communications Associate and a Research Assistant for Ecosystem Marketplace’s new Supply Change initiative. Scroll down to the Job Openings section for descriptions.

—The Ecosystem Marketplace Team


If you have comments or would like to submit news stories, write to us at [email protected].


Venturing Into Uncharted Territory: Applying Net Positive Impacts For Biodiversity In Forestry And Agriculture

Despite the impact that the agriculture and forestry sectors have on biodiversity, the IUCN finds that companies active in forestry and agriculture tend not to participate in conservation efforts that apply the four-step mitigation hierarchy. Contrast this to the extractive industries like mining and fossil fuels as well as the infrastructure sector, which have been involved in mitigation, in partnership with NGOS like Flora and Fauna International,BirdLife International, and Conservation International since at least the early 2000s.


In the fall of 2013, IUCN’s Global Business and Biodiversity Program convened with private sector and biodiversity experts to figure out how the mitigation hierarchy could be applied to the agriculture and forestry sectors. The outcome of that informal meeting is the report, No Net Loss and Net Positive Impact: Approaches for Biodiversity, published this week.

Get the full story from Ecosystem Marketplace.


The BBOP Files: Lessons from the Community of Practice

Two recent Business and Biodiversity Offset Programme (BBOP) webinars offer insights from the ground on offsets practice and policy.


On March 27th, Sally Johnson and Kirsten Hund presented “National Biodiversity Offset Scheme: A Road Map for Liberia,” reviewing World Bank-backed efforts to explore the feasibility of a national offset program in Liberia to help minimize impacts from mining in the country.


Then on April 8th, Tom Grosskopf and Derek Steller discussed the use of offsets to finance conservation and manage growth areas in Western Sydney, Australia and the surrounding region.

Watch recordings and get a copy of presenters’ slides here.


Where Chocolate Meets Carbon: One Peruvian Project Finds The Sweet Spot

The Tambopata REDD project in the Madre de Dios region, known as Peru’s “Biodiversity Capital,” aims to help locals make ends meet while taking pressure off the valuable forest. But generating the offsets is only the first step. Project developers have to figure out how to sell them. Until governments reach a deal on integrating avoided deforestation into an international climate change agreement, the REDD market is entirely dependent on voluntary buyers. And though REDD offset sales are growing, prices are dropping, and last year project developers reported taking home less than 70% of the revenue they needed to keep projects afloat long-term.


The Althelia Climate Fund had an idea: Why not use REDD offsets as collateral against loans but also design projects to produce deforestation-free products, therefore creating multiple revenue streams?

Get the full story here.


Subsidies for Deforestation-driving Commodities Dwarf Conservation Finance – New Report

The race against deforestation is being won or lost hectare by hectare in the tropical rainforest countries that also provide the majority of the world’s agricultural commodities. But subsidies for commodities that drive deforestation may be undermining the efficacy of financial incentives for conserving forests and their carbon content, according to a new working paper by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), a United Kingdom-based think tank.

Agricultural subsidies worth at least $486 billion in 2012 dwarf the $8.7 billion total that developed countries have committed towards Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation of forests (REDD+) since 2006, the report finds.

Get coverage here.


Commodity Roundtables: Green Gatekeepers Or Dirty Doormen?

It’s been a decade since the first commodity roundtables brought producers of soy, palm, and other crops together with environmental organizations. The results have been less than stellar, as the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil recently disciplined 100 members for failure to comply with paperwork requirements. Critics say that’s a nice beginning, but we still have far to go.

Read more.


Opinion: Bioenergy Can Support Climate, Food, Land Restoration – If Done Right

Governments have long promoted the use of biofuels like ethanol derived from corn as a relatively clean-burning alternative to coal, but biofuels have gone from hero to zero as people started chopping forests to plant fuel crops. Many environmentalists today are calling for an end to pro-biofuel policies, but Emily McGlynn of The Earth Partners LP says we simply need to use land more efficiently.

Read it here.

Changing Course on Global Biodiversity Loss with a Carbon Market

The bad news: Since the 1500s, the Earth has experienced a 14% drop in the average number of species living in various ecosystems due to human-caused land use change. The good news: a first-of-its-kind global analysis finds that some of this biodiversity loss can be reversed. Using climate change mitigation scenarios, report authors found that establishing a strong carbon market that assigned higher values to biodiversity-rich forests was effective in conserving and restoring lost wildlife. The lead report author explains, “If society takes concerted action, and reduces climate change by valuing forests properly, then by the end of the century we can undo the last 50 years of damage to biodiversity on land.”


But in order to prevent further biodiversity loss and undo years of damage, more data and policy change is certainly needed. Another recent study, published in the journal of Applied Ecology analyzes the Essential Biodiversity Variables (EBV), a list of the essential elements related to biodiversity that require monitoring, to answer those questions. The study identifies gaps between global biodiversity goals, indicators used to develop policy reports and available data that measures the indicators and objectives.

Learn more about carbon and biodiversity conservation here.
Read about the EBV analysis.


Whither New South Wales’ Biodiversity Legislation?

Australia’s New South Wales recently held an election for state leadership. Prior to election day, residents expressed concern about the future of biodiversity legislation following an independent review that included the controversial suggestion to repeal the Native Vegetation Act and Threatened Species Act. It also recommended less government oversight on land clearing activities and a greater dependency on biodiversity offsets, which opponents say currently lack the transparency needed for meaningful offsetting. The Liberal-National Coalition announced that they would adopt all the recommendations for the state’s biodiversity legislation, if re-elected. And on March 28, they won the election.

Get analysis at The Conversation.
Read more on the Coalition’s announcement at the Sydney Morning Herald


The Greater Sage-Grouse Gets Its Own Marketplace

Some western landowners in the US are backing a new approach to conserve the declining greater sage-grouse. It’s the so-called “sagebrush marketplace,” which allows an assortment of developers that unavoidably destroy sage-grouse habitat to offset their impact by purchasing credits from landowners that have performed an amount of sage-grouse conservation like removing juniper trees that overtake the ecosystem.


The marketplace is made up of Habitat Exchanges, which are a type of payment for ecosystem services program developed by NGO Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). They’re taking hold in several states including Colorado, Wyoming and Nevada. As it stands, the bird isn’t listed under the Endangered Species Act yet so the exchanges operate on a voluntary basis. The energy interests, ranchers and others participating are intending for their actions to prevent regulatory obligations down the road should the grouse end up listed.

Yale 360 has the story.


Despite Potential, Litigation Marks Wyoming’s First Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation Bank

The Sweetwater River Conservancy in central Wyoming marks the first conservation bank for greater sage-grouse. Supporters hope that the 235,000 acre ranch can balance efforts to conserve and restore dwindling sage-grouse populations with energy development and other sources of economic growth.


However, the bank’s projected success is likely not enough to stamp out ongoing controversy regarding greater sage-grouse conservation, over whether mitigation can work, where it should take place, and how migratory grouse populations will be managed. In addition to these disputes, which have a big chance of ending up in court, a coalition of energy and farming interests are pursuing legal action against the federal government. The group claims the government is using bad science to justify top-down solutions to grouse conservation.

Read more about the bird wars from the Casper Star Tribune.
Learn about the greater sage-grouse conservation bank here.


Proactive Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation: Worth its Weight in Gold?

The Barrick Gold Corporation, a multinational gold mining company, is making its contribution to greater sage-grouse conservation by establishing a conservation bank in Nevada, one of 11 states that make up the bird’s range. The bank will allow Barrick to expand its mining operations while simultaneously conserving sage-grouse habitat. The sage-grouse is one of a few grouse species that has seen their numbers decline drastically in the last few decades. The Gunnison sage-grouse was listed as endangered last year, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service will likely make a decision on the greater sage-grouse this year. Voluntary efforts such as this conservation bank can help keep the sage-grouse off the endangered list, the US Department of Interior says.

NPR has the story.


Whether Tis Nobler to Maximize Minimization, or Just Go Ahead and Mitigate

A recent US District Court decision that upheld the US Fish and Wildlife’s issuing an incidental take permit for endangered Indiana bats at a wind power project may have implications for application of the mitigation hierarchy (avoid, then minimize, then mitigate) when it comes to impacts to endangered species. Union Neighbors United had challenged the permit on the grounds that Buckeye Wind had not minimized take to the lowest extent possible before moving on to mitigation.


The court rejected this argument on the grounds that the 1996 Habitat Conservation Planning and Incidental Take Permit Handbook takes the long view, allowing agencies to focus on whatever is most likely to deliver “substantial benefits” to the species. “Here, the USFWS found that the minimization and mitigation measures ‘fully offset’ the impact of the taking of Indiana bats, and thus, it was not necessary to determine if the plan was the ‘maximum that can be practically implemented by the Applicant,” the decision stated.


Get analysis at Lexology.


In Brazil’s Cerrado, the Co-Finance Dream Endures

In 2008, Hyundai announced an offset commitment aiming to conserve and reforest 3,000 acres of tropical forest in Brazil Cerrado region to great fanfare. The project was promoted as “one of the first voluntary carbon offset projects that will meet the high standards of the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Standards.” Within three years, the project had been quietly withdrawn from validation after auditors brought up concerns that despite the Cerrado’s biodiversity values, the area had little promise in terms of carbon storage.


It’s a familiar story, says Mongabay: opportunities to link carbon finance to biodiversity conservation have so far been a rare beast. In fact, the biggest carbon project in the Cerrado to date, which plants eucalyptus to burn as charcoal, is terrible for the region’s biodiversity. But that may be changing. New science suggests that even savanna ecosystems like the Cerrado can be valuable in the fight against climate change, and advocates for the Cerrado aren’t ready just yet to unpin their hopes from carbon.

Read it at Mongabay.


Payments for Ecosystem Services Turns Blue

As the value of coastal ecosystems like mangroves grows and their many ecosystem services become fully recognized, a new payment for ecosystem services (PES) mechanism is emerging. Right now, it’s focused on the ‘blue carbon’ that marine ecosystems store, with NGOs initiating projects like the International Blue Carbon Initiative. But recently, the International Center for Forestry Research (CIFOR) noted how PES projects are principally designed for terrestrial ecosystems. Therefore the special risks related to coastal ecosystems must be identified so project design can reflect them and the proper policies are in place. Stressors unique to marine ecosystems include hurricanes, sea-level rise and changes in sediment supply.

Read the blog post at CIFOR.


Proposed Alaskan ILF Aims to Go Beyond Preservation

A watershed coalition in southeast Alaska is in the midst of creating an in-lieu fee (ILF) program focused on local wetland and stream restoration and enhancement. If approved by the Army Corps of Engineers, the Southeast Alaska Mitigation Fund would be different for a couple reasons. First, preservation is the only type of mitigation currently practiced in southeast Alaska. Secondly, the fund says it’ll focus on mitigating impacts locally, a departure from what’s often current practice in the region.

Stikine River Radio has coverage.


VIP Treatment for Energy in Lesser Prairie Chicken Conservation?

A rangewide plan to conserve the federally listed lesser prairie chicken contains a mitigation banking program – but it’s primarily for the energy industries, as developers hoping to install a dairy worth $70 million found out. Wind and oil and gas developers can sign on to the plan which allows them to harm chicken habitat and compensate for it by conserving an area greater and of more value to the bird than what was destroyed.


According to state wildlife officials, the plan is much less costly for energy interests than consulting with the Fish and Wildlife Service on a case by case basis. In some circumstances, farming activities can qualify under the plan, but as officials explained, a dairy wouldn’t be able to comply with specific sound and activity rules during the prairie chicken’s mating season and so doesn’t qualify.

Get coverage from the Lamar Ledger.


Little Protection Happening in Indonesia’s Protected Areas

Areas protected specifically to preserve biodiversity in forest-rich Indonesia do very little in protecting these places from deforestation, a Singapore-based study has found. It’s a critical issue because not only do Indonesia’s forests contain high levels of unique and endangered biodiversity, but its standing forests help fight climate change. The increased demand for agricultural land and timber, combined with weak enforcement of protected areas, are the key reasons for the forest loss. Report authors suggest better monitoring efforts, particularly of road construction, stronger enforcement rules, and alternative livelihoods for local peoples as more effective methods to preserve the protected areas.

Learn more about the study here.


Connecting the Dots Between Human Health and Biodiversity

Biodiversity and human health are inextricably linked through biodiversity’s impact on ecosystem services like air and water quality, food production and medicine. And this year, the link was officially recognized at the 14th World Congress on Public Health where the World Health Organization and Convention on Biological Diversity launched a new report meant to be this issue’s flagship publication. The report offers recommendations that can help halt global biodiversity loss. Because land-use change and agriculture are dominant causes of the loss, sustainable production is one such suggestion. As for climate change and the risk to biodiversity it poses, report authors say ecosystem-based adaptation and mitigation strategies that build resilience are the best approaches. They also note another significant factor in preserving biodiversity: human behavioral change.

Mongabay has the story.





Senior Communications Associate – Forest Trends

Forest Trends – Washington DC, USA

Based in Washington, D.C., the Senior Communications Associate will support the Communications Manager in strengthening Forest Trends’ overall communications, with a special emphasis on media and social media outreach. S/he will be responsible for promoting Forest Trends’ work to the media and also generally strengthen the organization’s outreach by cultivating and organizing media contacts and lists, assisting with mailings (primarily electronic) and other forms of outreach, coordinating event logistics, supporting the publication and communications production process, and performing other duties as assigned. Successful candidates will have a bachelor’s degree and three to five years of relevant experience.

Learn more here.


Supply Change Research Assistant – Ecosystem Marketplace

Forest Trends – Washington DC, USA

Based in Washington, D.C., the Research Assistant will support Supply Change, a project that provides real-time information on the extent and value of commitment-driven commodity production and demand. The position involves researching public commitments to reduce supply chain impacts on ecosystem degradation, compiling data in Excel, identifying news for the Supply Change web platform, and conducting stakeholder outreach. The successful candidate will have excellent research, organizational and writing skills; an interest in agricultural commodity-related deforestation; and experience with Excel. The position runs for an initial three-month period at a negotiable hourly rate.

Learn more here.


Managing Director, West Africa

Envirofit – Lagos, Nigeria

Envirofit International ( is rapidly scaling its operations in West Africa. With this rapid growth comes the need for high quality in-country management to oversee operations and manage expansion. Envirofit is seeking a Managing Director to oversee and grow its operations, sales and business development within the West Africa region. This director will have full Operations and P&L responsibility. Position will be based at Envirofit’s West Africa Sales and Manufacturing headquarters in Lagos, Nigeria.

Learn more here.




2015 National Mitigation & Ecosystem Banking Conference

The 2015 National Mitigation & Ecosystem Banking Conference, scheduled for May 5-8, 2015, in Orlando, Florida is the only national conference that brings together key players in this industry, and offers quality hands-on sessions and training as well as important regulatory updates. Proven to be “the” place to gain insights, explore new markets and learn from sessions, the 2015 Conference will continue its focus on educational content – both advanced and basic sessions as well as moderated exchanges and a variety of mini workshops that help to connect bankers, regulators, users and others involved in this industry. Pre and post- event workshops include Primer 101, Stream Banking, Long-Term Stewardship, Financing & Valuation and more. Hear perspectives from bankers, regulators and users, get updated on regulations, legislation and legal challenges, participate in field trips and benefit from the many opportunities to network! With a high attendance this past year, we anticipate a record attendance in Orlando and encourage you to make plans to submit to present, attend, even sponsor or exhibit! Orlando FL, USA. 5-8 May 2015.

Learn more here.


2015 Conservation Finance Boot Camp

The Conservation Finance Network at Island Press is pleased to announce the 2015 Conservation Finance Boot Camp training course being held at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies in partnership with the Yale Center for Business and the Environment. Now in its ninth year, this intensive week-long course aims to help professionals utilize innovative and effective financing strategies for land resource conservation, restoration, and stewardship. The course will offer in-depth information on trends and opportunities in public funding, private investment capital, bridge financing and loans, gifts and grants, income from the land, and monetized ecosystem services. There will be a strong emphasis on practical, hands-on tools and lessons from relevant case studies. Attendees will have an opportunity to consult with conservation finance experts on projects or problems from their work. The course will also serve to convene a peer network of committed conservation professionals working on similar issues across the nation. Past attendees have included U.S. and international conservationists, foundation leaders, land trust board members, executive directors, private investors, business executives, and academics. Opportunities for networking will be built in throughout the week in order to foster long-term professional relationships and support networks among attendees and presenters. 1-5 June 2015. New Haven CT, USA.

Learn more here.



We are a network of heart-centered investors, entrepreneurs, and social impact leaders who believe in an inclusive and socially responsible economy to address the world’s toughest challenges. Since 2008, SOCAP has created a platform where social impact leaders can connect and present their ideas to a global audience. Our annual flagship event in San Francisco is the largest conference for impact investors and social entrepreneurs and has drawn more than 10,000 people.

6-9 October 2015. San Francisco CA, USA.

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