BEST III - Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in Territories of European Overseas - is a voluntary scheme involving seven regional knowledge hubs across the world. It is being coordinated by staff involved in local projects, working for and with local stakeholders, focusing on the EU Outermost Regions (ORs) and Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) biodiversity hotspots.
It aims to create:
- An open partnership bringing together a solid and experienced presence in the field
- Professional leading and supporting staff that will liaise with the European Commission, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Secretariat and donors that will be advised by high level scientific and funding experts.
The South Atlantic Environmental Research Institute (SAERI) is in charge of coordinating the BEST III project for the South Atlantic Overseas Territories (OTs).
The EU Overseas is often not eligible for funding from existing sources, missing out on funds targeted at regional ecosystems and threats. In addition, funding mechanisms are often not adapted to meet the specific needs of the territories. The BEST Preparatory Action, adopted by the European Parliament, provided seed money which allowed funding of 16 on-the-ground projects through two open calls, BEST 2011 and 2012. The outcome of these two open calls for proposals showed a definite need for overseas funding, as the submitted requests amounted to more than six times the available budget and several projects that passed all evaluation criteria could not be funded. There is, therefore, a recognised need to make this funding more than a onetime effort and establish a financial support mechanism sustainable for years to come. BEST III aims to catalyze the transition to a sustainable BEST facility.
The BEST III project is being carried out across the world through seven regional hubs: Amazonia, Pacific, Indian Ocean, Macaronesia, Caribbean, South Atlantic and the Polar and Sub-Polar region. Two of the seven regional hubs are within the South Atlantic and cover the following areas:
South Atlantic: Ascension Island (UK), St Helena (UK), Tristan da Cunha (UK) and the Falkland Islands (UK)
Sub-Antarctic: South Georgia & South Sandwich Islands (UK); Crozet (FR), Kerguelen (FR) and St Paul/Amsterdam (FR)
The Sub-Antarctic region is part of a larger Polar and Sub-Polar hub which includes OCTs from both northern and southerly polar systems. The coordination of the South Atlantic hub is based at the SAERI in the Falkland Islands and will focus on the UK OTs in this region.
Aims of the project
EU Overseas biodiversity is very rich, home to the majority of endemic species in the EU, and acknowledged as being of international importance. It is, however, particularly at risk because island systems are highly vulnerable to invasive alien species, development, and the impacts of climate change. The main aims of the project are to:
- Create an Ecosystem Profile for each of the territories that will act as a tool to guide future long-term conservation efforts and investments
- Support the conservation of biodiversity and sustainable use of ecosystem services (including ecosystem-based approaches to climate change adaptation and mitigation throughout the EU OR and OCTs)
- Combine knowledge and input to foster regional cooperation between territories
- Create sustainable funding support on a long-term scale by sharing funding opportunities and connecting projects in need of support
The BEST III project is being coordinated by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) based in Brussels, with the individual hubs being managed by regional organisations. The management of the South Atlantic hub is being led by SAERI but involves working closely with local governments, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and local communities across all the OTs that are encompassed in this hub. The key output will be the creation of Ecosystem Profiles for each of the OTs and identification of Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs).
What is an Ecosystem Profile?
An Ecosystem Profile, in essence, is an assessment of biodiversity within a region, looking at its importance, overall conservation targets, major threats and the policy, civil society and socio-economic context within which it sits. It also involves an assessment of funding gaps and potential funding opportunities.
However, it is not just an accumulation of facts. The process includes a comprehensive consultation and engagement with the local community and stakeholders invested in the environment. This aims to make the Ecosystem Profile reflective of people’s ideas and vision for the future of each of the OTs. There is a strong emphasis on sharing knowledge and data to bring people together for a common goal; including collaboration with on-going projects and existing information. By collating and assessing information on biodiversity, past and current conservation activities, threats, opportunities and gaps in funding we will be able to define and prioritize actions that need to be undertaken for the protection of biodiversity and inform future policies and funding investments.
A main element to the Ecosystem Profiles is the identification of Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs). KBAs are defined as sites that contribute significantly to the global persistence of biodiversity. They represent the most important sites for biodiversity conservation worldwide, and are identified nationally using globally standardised criteria and thresholds.
We aim to promote the active participation of stakeholders in conservation and the environment in general, through consultations. By holding these at a range of levels, including, but not exclusive to, professional organisations, local government and members of the public, a platform will be created for all investors in the environment to have an input.
The general areas of discussion are:
- Promotion of ideas for Key Biodiversity Areas selection
- Prioritisation of current threats, as relevant to each OT
- Understanding what the expectations of each OT are
- Other priorities for future actions and strategy
By encouraging strong communication and information sharing from the beginning of the project we aim to create a holistic view without neglecting personal opinions and local needs.