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Title: The impacts of the extractives on biodiversity, ecosystem services and conservation prioritisation : management options in the Andes and Western Amazon
Author: Zurita-Arthos, Leonardo Homero
ISNI:       0000 0004 5918 668X
Awarding Body: King's College London
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2015
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Extractive operations in the Andes and Western Amazon overlap with important biodiversity sites and areas of high ecosystem services provision. On one hand, the governments of Colombia, Ecuador and Peru have been increasingly developing and exploiting oil and gas, and mining resources due to the high revenues and important contribution to their national economies. On the other, conservation priorities at regional‐ and global‐scale recognise the importance of preserving these priority sites for their biodiversity value and ecosystem services relevancy. The work contained in this thesis identifies ecosystem services that are at risk due to the extractive activities and proposes novel ways on how to evaluate these risks and prioritise conservation, ultimately contributing towards a more sustainable development of extractives in the region. As part of the research, the use of GIS techniques and modelling tools was tailored to suit the complexities of the diverse combination of variables. Datasets of mining for minerals and precious metals concessions, as well as oil and gas concessions are confronted with biodiversity and ecosystem services parameters, in order to obtain an appropriate understanding of current impacts extent and their implications. Around three quarters of the Amazon in Ecuador and Peru is covered by oil and gas concessions, whilst mining concessions are predominant in the Andes slopes. These extractive concessions overlap with protected areas and conservation priority sites. Some areas of pristine rainforest in Peru (Pacaya Samiria National Reserve) and Ecuador (Yasuni National Park) were consistently identified as high providers of carbon services, water provision and natural hazard mitigation services, as well as being home to high numbers of species of several taxonomic groups, many of them endemic to the region. This is the conflictive baseline situation of extractives and conservation priorities in the region. Modelling tools were used to establish this baseline, and from then they were applied in two ways: a) to evaluate different strategies for conservation prioritisation, and b) to create potential but realistic scenarios of future extractive development in the region. Conservation prioritisation strategies that include considerations of multiple ecosystem services, threatened biodiversity, current pressure and future threats were set to detect the topmost sites recommended for conservation. This prioritisation assessment utilised the threshold of 17% of the top areas, to resemble the Aichi target 11 for 2020. Most of the identified priority areas (77%) are already covered by current protected areas system, which helps strengthening the case to protect them, but a considerable portion (31%) is also overlapped by extractive concessions, which pose a threat to their conservation in the long term. The modelled development scenarios for extractives showed that mining operations in the Andes would cause comparatively lesser impact extent in area, but highly localised impacts that could potentially harm the means of subsistence of local populations. On the other hand, modelled oil and gas extraction in the lowlands of the Amazon is larger in extent, but may cause harm to relatively less people. Nevertheless, the pristine rainforests that would be affected hold immense value of globally‐ (e.g. carbon) and locally‐relevant (e.g. water provision) ecosystem services and constitute the habitat of unique high levels of biodiversity. Furthermore, the spatial results show how potential residuals of all modelled extractive operations could cause off‐site impacts that travel far downstream the waterways even crossing international borders. Management options for extractive development should try to find a middle ground that recognises the topmost priority areas for conservation as no‐go zones for extraction, but leaves other areas of comparatively less importance to be developed under strict environmental policy control that minimises the impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem services we all rely on.
Supervisor: Mulligan, Mark Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available