World Bank announces new biodiversity hotspot fund

A new $150 million fund aimed at conserving the world’s top biodiversity hotspots, containing 60% of terrestrial species, has been announced by the World Bank.

The new Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPR) is a joint initiative of Conservation International (CI), the World Bank, and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and is aimed at protecting 25 highly threatened regions covering an area of 2.1 million square kilometres, or 1.4% of the Earth’s land surface, where the majority of all terrestrial species are found.

The aim of the fund is to pull together the organisations which are already working on projects around the world, a World Bank spokesperson explained to edie.

According to a recent report in the journal Nature, the current accelerated rate of species extinction could lead to the disappearance of up to two thirds of all species. Evidence from prehistoric mass extinctions indicates that the replacement of these species would take several million years. However, according to the authors of the report, this mass extinction could be countered by the protection of biodiversity hotspots.

“This is a new source of money exclusively for local groups whose work is central to protecting the biodiversity hotspots,” said Peter A Seligmann, CI Chairman and CEO. “The aim is to help agencies and communities to pull together more effectively and have a greater impact. Too often the many ongoing efforts in the hotspots fail to deliver because people don’t know what others are doing or because crucial activities – often at the grassroots level – are not funded.”

The authors of the Nature article identified the 25 biodiversity hotspots. Tropical forests appear in 15 of the hotspots, with Mediterranean-type zones in five. Almost all tropical islands fall into a hotspot, and on the whole, a considerable number of hotspots are in developing countries where conservation resources are scarcest, says the report.

According to the authors of the Nature article, only 38% of the world’s hotspots are protected in parks and reserves, some of which are little better than ‘paper parks’.

It is intended that the Fund will result in improved management of protected areas and co-ordination in biodiversity corridors, with a streamlined process of decision-making allowing quick responses to new threats and for smaller-scale projects which are often time-sensitive. The fund provides access to grant guidelines and application forms through the internet, and applications can be submitted online from November at The variable accessibility of the internet in developing nations means that the Fund is being focused on areas which have internet access, or where CI has offices.

“We have to move fast to create realistic alternatives for poor people if we are to relieve the growing pressures on the environment,” said World Bank President, James D Wolfensohn. “The Fund will help us find solutions that allow poor people to have a better way of life while at the same time conserving the biodiversity on which their long-term survival depends.”

The World Bank, CI, and the GEF each plan to commit $25 million to the fund during the next five years. The remaining $75 million is expected to be provided by other donor agencies, such as governments, foundations, and NGOs. During its first year of operations, the Fund will focus on the hotspot regions of Madagascar, West Africa, and the Tropical Andes, with five additional ecosystems being invested in each year.

“No single organisation can do it alone,” said CI Vice President Jorgen Thomsen, who will be serving as Executive Director of the CEPF. “By creating strategic alliances among diverse groups, we will combine unique capacities and eliminate duplication of efforts. The Fund maximises the strengths of its three initial investors, building upon CI’s strategic focus on the hotspots, the World Bank’s dialogue with high level decision makers, and the GEF’s extensive reach that includes the participation governments and NGO’s in more than 165 member governments.”

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