Statistical Yearbook for Asia and the Pacific 2012
 
   
F. Environment
 
F.4. Biodiversity, protected areas and forests

Biodiversity is a complex topic for which direct and internationally comparable measurements have been elusive to science. Even the relatively simpler concepts of protected areas and forest areas are prone to methodological and data availability limitations for regional analyses. The present topic features some of the indicators for which comparable statistics could be compiled with reasonably good coverage across the Asian and Pacific region, in order to approximate some of the trends and current situations for the region in regard to biodiversity, protected areas, forests and the many benefits with which they provide our societies.

Protected areas – both marine and terrestrial – are critical for the protection of important biodiversity and cultural values that would otherwise face decimation due to the pressures of the demand for food, materials, energy, land and the pursuit of income. The plight of the oceans was highlighted at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as the Rio+20 Conference, which stressed the importance of the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans and seas and of their resources for sustainable development. The heads of State and high-level representatives committed to “protect, and restore, the health, productivity and resilience of oceans and marine ecosystems, and to maintain their biodiversity, enabling their conservation and sustainable use for present and future generations.”1 This statement builds on the commitments already embodied in membership in the Convention on Biological Diversity.2

However, the Asian and Pacific region lags behind all other regions except Europe in submitting actions plans to the Convention.3 Only 25 out of 47 countries in the Asian and Pacific region that are party to the Convention have submitted action plans for the Programme of Work on Protected Areas,4 agreed to by the Conference of the Parties of the Convention at its 7th meeting.5 Even in places where there is substantial protected area coverage, ineffective management and a lack of law enforcement can lead to habitat degradation, and key ecosystem values are being lost. Forest cover, while expanding due to major investment in plantation forests, is still under tremendous threat, as biodiversity-rich primary forests, which support rural communities and provide many non-wood forest products and ecosystem services such as aquifer recharge, continue to be lost each year.

The Asian and Pacific region continues to be faced with large numbers of threatened species. Therefore, even minor improvements to protecting key ecosystems and to reducing overharvesting and habitat destruction could create positive impacts for a great number of species.

Figure F.4-1
Numbers of threatened species, Asia and the Pacific, 2012

Figure F.4-1 Numbers of threatened species, Asia and the Pacific, 2012Conservation successes have been limited compared with the threats to biodiversity and other natural endowments resulting from expansion of agriculture, tourism and the production of hydropower.

Comparing the trends in biodiversity data across countries or regions is difficult because the measures depend on the levels of survey activity and the numbers of species under threat. However, the statistics presented in this Yearbook, and in subregional and global reports, reveal high degrees of threat for the region’s biodiversity. These threats are significant for development because biodiversity provides for rural livelihoods.

According to studies by IUCN conducted to calculate the numbers of threatened species,6 the situation has become particularly worse for species of corals and species of amphibians in the last two decades. Maps F.4-1 and F.4-2 from IUCN demonstrate how these challenges have particular importance for the region.

Map F.4-1
Amphibians threatened worldwide

Map F.4-1 Amphibians threatened worldwideSource: International Union for Conservation of Nature, Red List of Threatened Species (2012).

 

 

 

 

Map F.4-2
Corals threatened worldwide

Map F.4-2 Corals threatened worldwideSource: International Union for Conservation of Nature, Red List of Threatened Species (2012).

The region is lagging behind in protecting its marine areas.

Figure F.4-2
Protected marine areas as a percentage of territorial waters, Asia and the Pacific, 2000 and 2010
Figure F.4-2 Protected marine areas as a percentage of territorial waters, Asia and the Pacific, 2000 and 2010

Marine biodiversity is often overlooked, but the World Wide Fund for Nature, in its Living Planet Report 2012,7 highlights that the Asian and Pacific region has experienced the highest intensities of extractive pressures from the fisheries industry over most of the region’s waters, affecting a wide variety of marine species.

Despite important steps taken by Pacific island countries and territories in recent years, in 2010 the share of protected marine areas in the region was 5.8 per cent of its territorial waters, compared with 7.1 per cent for the world average and falling far short of the Convention on Biological Diversity target of 10 per cent by 2020.8 Since 2000, the largest proportional increases in protected marine areas have been recorded by countries and territories in the Pacific subregion, such as American Samoa, Australia, Kiribati, New Caledonia, New Zealand and Northern Mariana Islands, while the establishment of protected areas has stagnated among South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries since 2000. Only marginal increases in protected marine areas have been recorded since 2000 among Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries (approximately 0.8 percentage points) as well as in East and North-East Asia (approximately 0.4 percentage points) (see figures F.4-2 and F.4-3).

Figure F.4-3
Protected marine areas as a percentage of territorial waters, Asian and Pacific subregions and other groupings, 2000 and 2010

Figure F.4-3 Protected marine areas as a percentage of territorial waters, Asian and Pacific subregions and other groupings, 2000 and 2010

The share of protected terrestrial areas in the Asian and Pacific region, at 10.3 per cent in 2010, is significantly short of the 17 per cent target for 2020 set by the Convention. However, with new national investments, the 2020 target may be achievable.

Figure F.4-4
Protected terrestrial areas as a percentage of surface area, Asia and the Pacific, 2000 and 2010

Figure F.4-4 Protected terrestrial areas as a percentage of surface area, Asia and the Pacific, 2000 and 2010The Asian and Pacific region increased its share of protected terrestrial area as a percentage of its total surface area by less than 1 percentage point, compared with a global increase in share of 1.3 percentage points. The establishment of protected areas has stagnated in the SAARC grouping and in almost one third of countries in the Asian and Pacific region since 2000, with marginal increases in several countries facing challenges related to biodiversity protection, in particular those in South-East Asia.

East and North-East Asia, however, has protected almost 16.0 per cent of its terrestrial area, and ASEAN countries 13.8 per cent. The Central Asian grouping, on the other hand, has protected only 3.0 per cent of its terrestrial area, reflecting in large part the geography, low population densities and the importance of extractive industries. The share of protected terrestrial areas in the world as a whole (12.4 per cent) is higher than that in Asia and the Pacific.

 

Figure F.4-5
Protected terrestrial areas, Asian and Pacific subregions and other groupings, 2000 and 2010

Figure F.4-5 Protected terrestrial areas, Asian and Pacific subregions and other groupings, 2000 and 2010Since 2000, the largest growth in protected terrestrial areas has been observed mostly in Cambodia and in Pacific island countries and territories. Cambodia, Kiribati, New Caledonia, Northern Mariana Islands and Tonga have recorded the largest proportional increases in protected terrestrial areas (see figures F.4-4 and F.4-5).

In the period 2005-2011, total forest cover in the Asian and Pacific region increased slightly, while it slightly decreased in the world as a whole.

The region increased the share of total forest cover as a percentage of land area by 0.1 percentage points from 2005 to 2011, rising to 30.6 per cent. In the same period, the world as a whole lost 0.2 percentage points of its forests share, declining to 31.0 per cent.

Within the region, South-East Asia and North and Central Asia have the highest proportions of forest cover (49.1 per cent and 40.3 per cent, respectively), with the Pacific having relatively low proportions of forest cover (22.4 per cent). However, since 1990, the proportion of forest cover in South-East Asia has been declining, reflecting losses in Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar and Timor-Leste.

During 2005-2010, regional forest cover trends were strongly influenced by afforestation (the planting of new forests in areas not previously forested) and reforestation (replacement of lost forests) in large countries such as China, India and the Russian Federation.

Figure F.4-6
Forest cover as a percentage of land area, Asia and the Pacific and world, 1990-2010

Figure F.4-6 Forest cover as a percentage of land area, Asia and the Pacific and world, 1990-2010Other countries and areas in the region reporting increases in forest cover include Bhutan, Fiji, French Polynesia, the Philippines, Turkey and Viet Nam. Upper-middle-income economies as a group have increased forest cover, which is not the case for the other income groupings. Decreases in forest cover have been recorded in low-income economies (1.2 percentage points); however, despite these losses, the overall forest cover percentage has not yet reached the low levels of high-income economies. Between 2005 and 2011, the countries that lost the largest proportions of forest cover include most South- East Asian countries, the Pacific island countries and territories of Niue, Northern Mariana Islands and Papua New Guinea, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Box F.4-1
Assessing resource use

Forest areas in Asia and the Pacific are continuously under pressure from demand for resources, not only forest resources such as timber, but also other types of resources that require land. In a context of high and volatile energy and commodity costs and increasingly evident resource constraints, a resource-intensive growth pattern also translates to an economy with a higher exposure to risk due to rising resource costs and disruptions in supply, especially for the most vulnerable in society.

Domestic material consumption intensity, Asia and the Pacific, its subregions and the world, 1992 and 2008 (kg per United States dollar, 2000)

Domestic material consumption intensity, Asia and the Pacific, its subregions and the world, 1992 and 2008 (kg per United States dollar, 2000)Transforming resources into products in markets is also an energy-intensive activity; energy is needed to extract resources, to transport resources to factories and to process them for final use. Carbon dioxide emissions are therefore strongly correlated with domestic material consumption, so action to track and to reduce resource use can be considered climate action.

Reducing environmental pressures and bringing rates of resource use to within sustainable limits require the economy to become more efficient with respect to its use of resources. Resource use can be assessed using statistics on the physical flows of materials, following the newly revised System of Environmental-Economic Accounting Central Framework.a

Per capita domestic material consumption, Asia and the Pacific, its subregions and the world, 1992 and 2008 (tons per capita)

Per capita domestic material consumption, Asia and the Pacific, its subregions and the world, 1992 and 2008 (tons per capita)The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), which is Australia’s national science agency, and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) have established the Asia-Pacific Material Flows Online Database.b The data show that, in 2008, the Asian and Pacific regionc as a whole used almost twice the input of resources as the global economy for creating each unit of GDP. This is partly due to the large investments that have been made in meeting basic infrastructure needs and in raising the standards of living of many of those in poverty, but it is also related to the economic growth strategies employed, as well as prevailing consumption patterns.

Domestic material consumption intensity, Asia and the Pacific, 1992 and 2008

Domestic material consumption intensity, Asia and the Pacific, 1992 and 2008In addition, while the economies of other regions of the world are becoming less resource-intensive over time, the Asian and Pacific economy required more resources to produce one dollar of GDP in 2008 than it did in 1992. The chart below shows that, while the per capita domestic material consumption of the region is still below the global figure, the gap narrowed significantly between 1992 and 2008.

The CSIRO and UNEP Asia-Pacific Material Flows Online Database covers four material categories: biomass, fossil fuels, metal ores and industrial minerals, and construction minerals. Further analysis of the data shows that construction minerals accounted for approximately 70 per cent of the region’s resource use, measured in terms of mass, as of 2005, and is the fastest growing category of material use.

Biomass accounts for a diminishing proportion of resource use overall, but total resource extraction increased by a factor of three from 1970 to 2005. This trend has been primarily influenced by changing lifestyles and changing consumption patterns, including an increased consumption of animal protein.

Resource efficiency is increasingly becoming an economic risk-management strategy on both economic and social fronts. While there is a need to continue to elevate the standard of living, this must be achieved based on resource-efficient, rather than resourceintensive, growth strategies. This is acknowledged in national development strategies in the Asian and Pacific region and beyond.

In 2013, the International Resource Paneld launched a process and review of material flow databases globally, with a view to the long-term consolidation of global data on material use.

Source: Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and United Nations Environment Programme, CSIRO and UNEPAsia-Pacific Material Flows Online Database.
____________________
a Available from http://unstats.un.org/unsd/envaccounting/White_cover.pdf.
b See www.csiro.au/AsiaPacificMaterialFlows. Data are prepared using Eurostat methodology. Available from http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/portal/ page/portal/euroindicators/national_accounts/methodology.
c The figures cover the ESCAP region and are based on data prepared for ESCAP by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. The CSIRO and UNEP Asia-Pacific Material Flows Online Database covers the UNEP-defined Asian and Pacific region.
d The International Resource Panel was established in 2007 by the United Nations Environment Programme as an independent scientific body and leading authority on global resource use, in response to the need for scientific information on resource use as a basis for more effective policy action.
The loss of primary forests (in general, forests that are largely undisturbed by human activity, compared with planted forests) remains a special concern.

Figure F.4-8
Percentages of annual change in primary forests, Asia and the Pacific, 1990-2010

Figure F.4-8 Percentages of annual change in primary forests, Asia and the Pacific, 1990-2010There is an increasing awareness of the multiple benefits primary forests provide in terms of food security, rural livelihood support, biodiversity, and cultural and aesthetic values. Between 2005 and 2010, the annual average rates of loss of primary forests were the highest in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Northern Mariana Islands, Papua New Guinea and the Republic of Korea, and the losses occurred at faster rates than those in the period 2000 to 2005.

While South-East Asia and South and South- West Asia historically have had dramatic losses in primary forest cover – Cambodia, Indonesia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Viet Nam are among the countries with the highest rates of primary forest loss in 2000-2005 – the subregions managed to slow the rates of primary forest loss significantly in the second half of the decade.

Box F.4-2
Building statistical capacity for measuring sustainable development

In 2012, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) resulted in renewed international commitments to sustainable development, which is defined as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”a

The need for better statistical capacity to support effective action on sustainable development in all of its dimensions was recognized at the Rio+20 Conference. While data needs exist in all domains, it is clear that capacity-building is required to improve the availability and quality of environmental statistics. There is now growing global and regional impetus on this issue.

One important approach to measuring environmental sustainability is to measure and monitor the stocks of natural capital in countries. A nation’s capital (or stock of assets) is the source of inputs into an economy or, ultimately, into the improvement of the welfare of a society. Measures for natural capital stocks include, for example, primary forest area. The System of Environmental-Economic Accounting Central Framework, endorsed by the United Nations Statistical Commission in 2012 as the initial standard for environmental-economic accounting, has defined environmental assets as the “naturally occurring living and non-living components of the Earth, together comprising the bio-physical environment, that may provide benefits to humanity.” Further, the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting Guidelines for Experimental Ecosystem Accounts expands the concept of environmental assets to include the various qualities of ecosystems that lead to benefits via ecosystem services, such as the carbon cycle and biodiversity.

Other major research and methodological developments related to the measurement of sustainability have emerged from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development,b the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe and the Statistical Office of the European Communities.c The time is ripe for the Asian and Pacific region to begin building capacities to implement and further contribute to these and other international developments towards better measures of sustainable development.

____________________
a See General Assembly resolution 42/187 of 11 December 1987.
b Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Measuring Capital: OECD Manual – Measurement of Capital Stocks, Consumption of Fixed Capital and Capital Services (Paris, 2011). Available from www.oecd.org/std/na/1876369.pdf.
c United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, Measuring Sustainable Development (United Nations, New York and Geneva, 2009). Available from http://unstats.un.org/unsd/broaderprogress/pdf/ Measuring_sustainable_development%20(UNECE,OECD,Eurostat).pdf.

Further reading

ESCAP, Asian Development Bank and United Nations Environment Programme. Green Growth, Resources and Resilience: Environmental Sustainability in Asia and the Pacific. Bangkok: United Nations and Asian Development Bank, 2012.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. State of the World’s Forests. Rome, 2012. Available from www.fao.org/forestry/sofo/en/.

United Nations Environment Programme and Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. Resource Efficiency: Economics and Outlook for Asia and the Pacific. Bangkok: United Nations Environment Programme, 2011.

Technical notes
Glossary

Marine areas protected (as adopted by IUCN): All areas of intertidal or subtidal terrain are covered, together with their overlying water and associated flora, fauna and historical and cultural features, that have been reserved by law or other effective means to protect part of, or the entire, enclosed environment. Only protected areas that are nationally designated are included in the indicators.

Terrestrial areas protected: Refers to the total land area dedicated to the protection and maintenance of biological diversity, and of natural and associated cultural resources, and managed through legal or other effective means. Only protected areas that are nationally designated are included in this indicator. This indicator is expressed as a percentage of the surface area.

Forest: The two criteria for a forest area are: (1) an area that spans more than half a hectare, with trees higher than 5 m; and (2) a canopy cover of more than 10 per cent, or trees able to reach that threshold in situ.

Primary forest: Refers to forest or other wooded land of native species where there are no clearly visible indications of human activities and the ecological processes are not significantly disturbed. Includes areas where collection of nonwood forest products occurs, provided that the human impact is small. Some trees may have been removed.

Threatened species: Species listed by IUCN as critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable. IUCN classification uses quantitative criteria, based on population size, rate of decline and area of distribution, to assign species to the above categories. Listing in a higher extinction risk category implies a higher expectation of extinction; and, over the specified time frames, more species listed in a higher category are expected to become extinct than those in a lower one (without effective conservation action).

Indicators

Marine areas protected (km2, percentage of territorial water)
The overall surface of protected marine areas in km2 and as a percentage of territorial water. Aggregate calculations: Sum of individual country values (km2); weighted averages using total territorial water area as weight (percentage of territorial water). Missing data are not imputed.

Terrestrial areas protected (km2, percentage of surface area)
The terrestrial areas protected, expressed in km2 and as a percentage of surface area. Aggregate calculations: Sum of individual country values (km2); weighted averages using total surface area as weight (percentage of surface area). Missing data are not imputed.

Forest area (km2, percentage of land area, percentage change per annum) Total forest area in km2, as a percentage of total land area, as percentage change in total forest area in a period of 10 years. Aggregate calculations: Sum of individual country values (km2); weighted averages using total land area as weight; average annual growth of aggregate values (percentage of land area, percentage change per annum). Missing data are not imputed.

Primary forest (percentage of forest area, percentage change per annum)
Primary forest, expressed as a share of primary forest of the total forest area, as percentage change per annum of primary forest in a period of 10 years. Aggregate calculations: Weighted averages using forest area as weight (percentage of forest area); average annual growth of aggregate values (percentage change per annum). Missing data are not imputed.

Threatened species, total by taxonomic group (number of species)
The number of threatened species on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Data are presented for each country by taxonomic group: mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fishes, molluscs, other invertebrates and plants.

Sources

Source of forest data: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), FAOSTAT. Global Forest Resources Assessment 2010 is the main source of forest area data in FAOSTAT. Data were provided by countries for the years 1990, 2000, 2005 and 2010. Data for intermediate years were estimated by FAO using linear interpolation and tabulation. Data obtained: 16 April 2013.

Source of primary forest data: FAO Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA 2010). Countries provide FAO with data in response to a common questionnaire. Data obtained: 7 January 2011.

Source of marine and terrestrial areas protected data: Millennium Indicators Database. The data source is the World Database on Protected Areas, the most comprehensive global data set on protected marine and terrestrial areas available. It is a joint product of UNEP and IUCN, prepared by the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre and the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas, working with Governments, the secretariats of multilateral environmental agreements and collaborating non-governmental organizations. Data are reported by countries to the World Database on Protected Areas. Quality control criteria are applied to ensure consistency and comparability of World Database on Protected Areas data. New data are validated at the World Conservation Monitoring Centre through a number of tools and translated into the standard World Database on Protected Areas data structure. Discrepancies between World Database on Protected Areas data and new data are resolved in communication with data providers. Processed data are fully integrated into the published World Database on Protected Areas. Data obtained: 26 February 2013.

Source of threatened species data: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, version 2012.2: table 5. The numbers of species listed in each category in the Red List change each time it is updated. Factors that determine such changes include species being assessed and added to the IUCN Red List for the first time, and species being reassessed and moved into a different category of threat. Summaries of the numbers of species in each Red List category by taxonomic group and by country are provided for the current IUCN Red List. Figures represent species only and do not include subspecies, varieties or geographically isolated subpopulations or stocks. Data obtained: 28 February 2013.

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1 See General Assembly resolution 66/288, annex, para. 158. Available from www.uncsd2012.org/thefuturewewant.html.
2 United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 1760, No. 30619.
3 The Convention was adopted at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, 5 June 1992, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
4 See www.cbd.int/protected/implementation/actionplans/.
5 See www.cbd.int/decision/cop/default.shtml?id=7765.
6 International Union for Conservation of Nature, Red List of Threatened Species. Available from www.iucnredlist.org/about/summary-statistics.
7 World Wide Fund for Nature, Living Planet 2012: Biodiversity, Biocapacity and Better Choices (Gland, Switzerland, 2012).
8 See the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020, annex to decision X/2 of the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, issued 29 October 2010. Available from www.cbd.int/decision/cop/?id=12268.
 
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