News and Notes

National Report Cards summarize conservation efforts at national level

Camellia Williams, Lead Writer, Vizzuality.

The Half-Earth Project is a call to protect half the land and sea in order to manage sufficient habitat to safeguard the bulk of biodiversity. But which half? The most recent update to the Half-Earth Map introduces the National Report Cards which summarize various aspects of conservation efforts at the national level. They can be used to explore different national indicators measuring conservation needs and progress and understand the different challenges faced by each country. 

Here, we will show you what to expect from the National Report Cards.

In-depth country focus

The National Report Cards focus on one country at a time. Once a country is selected for exploration, the rest of the world falls away and exposes a 3D map that’s ready to explore. This map view is the entry point for country-level analysis.

 
The Species Protection Index

The Species Protection Index (SPI) is an indicator of global biodiversity change that is featured in the National Report Cards. The SPI is one prominent example of a family of metrics — collectively known as Essential Biodiversity Variables — vital for guiding a global strategy of biodiversity conservation, and are an integral part of international policy frameworks, including the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and the Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network (GEO BON)

When measured at the national level, the SPI reflects the average amount of area-based conservation targets met across all endemic species within a given country in a given year, weighted by a country’s stewardship. The SPI ranges from 0-100, and is based on the amount and location of currently protected land, and the number and location of species found both inside and outside of these protected areas. An SPI of 100 reflects a country practicing good stewardship and promoting equitable conservation efforts within its borders.

The National SPI values shown here were derived using patterns of all known terrestrial vertebrate species, which were chosen because they represent the species groups with the most comprehensive coverage of distribution data. All data were provided and analyses were performed by Map Of Life. The Half-Earth Project is actively engaging in new research to expand coverage of other taxonomic groups, so that they can be included in future analyses and decision-making.

Colombia has 604 endemic land vertebrate species. These species are found nowhere else on Earth.

 

A suggestion of where additional protection is needed

The Half-Earth Project is on a mission to comprehensively map the geospatial location and distribution of the planet’s species at a high enough resolution to drive decision-making. The release of the National Report Cards highlights one possible configuration of additional areas to protect in pursuit of the Half-Earth goal. 

The brightly coloured map layer reveals which areas within each country would contribute more to the conservation of species habitat, while also marking the locations of current protection.

In Kenya, an additional 52% percent of land protection would comprehensively conserve terrestrial biodiversity globally.

 

A beautiful visualization of species composition

To emphasise those countries with high biodiversity rarity, a beautiful visualisation puts fresh focus on the number of endemic species. Compare and contrast these graphs for Cuba and Romania. One has 230 endemic species while the other has none. Can you guess which country is which? 

The extension of the circular rings emphasizes the high number of endemic species in Cuba.

 

A country with endemic species is solely responsible for the management of protected areas that assure the conservation of those species. Furthermore, the range of endemic species is often smaller than those found in multiple countries, placing additional responsibility on individual countries to protect almost 100% of a species’ range.  Understanding the composition of species in terms of endemism is important for understanding the challenges a country may have in trying to achieve the maximum Species Protection Index. 

Species Protection Scores

From the sidebar of a country it is possible to explore information on the land vertebrates whose habitat is within the country borders. The table introduces the concept of Stewardship and the Species Protection Score. 

The species stewardship element of the National Report Card scales up the concept of joint responsibility for a species by considering all of the land vertebrates in each country. Through this approach, it’s possible to see the number of countries that share the stewardship of a species. The Species Protection Score goes deeper into that concept by providing an assessment of the protection accomplished per species, per country. 

The Species Protection Score (SPS) differs from the Species Protection Index (SPI) in that it reflects the level of protection an individual species receives within a given country. In general, each species requires a certain percentage of its global habitat to be safeguarded in order for the species to be considered adequately protected. This area-based percentage is referred to as a conservation target. 

An SPS value indicates how close a country is to meeting a species’ conservation target, relative to the amount of species habitat it has stewardship over. A single species will therefore have a unique SPS for each country that overlaps with its global range. SPS values are presented as ranges (e.g., 75-100) to reflect some of the spatial uncertainty associated with species distributions.

Let’s look at the example of the Corsican finch (Carduelis corsicana), a small bird native to some of the Mediterranean islands of Italy and France. The majority of its habitat falls within Italian territory, and as such, in the context of equitable biodiversity conservation, it is reasonable to expect that Italy would be responsible for protecting more Corsican finch habitat than France. The Corsican finch has SPS ranges of 25-50 in Italy and 75-100 in France; this implies that France is protecting a greater percentage of Corsican finch habitat that it stewards relative to Italy, even though the raw amounts of protected habitat area within each country may be similar.

In Italy, the Corsican Finch has a Species Protection Score of 25-50.

 

In comparison the score for the Corsican Finch in France is 75-100 and therefore closer to the global protection target of the species.

An overview of conservation challenges

To better understand the challenges countries face when planning conservation action, the ‘Challenges’ portion of the National Report Cards explores the relationships between the Species Protection Index and the various socio-political and biodiversity indicators of different nations. The scatter plots illustrate some of the similarities between countries, and the social challenges that need to be considered to ensure equitable global biodiversity conservation. By grouping countries by their similarities, this part of the National Report Cards could make it easier for countries to learn from one another and replicate each other’s successes. 

The above-mentioned concept of Species stewardship is one of the filtering options that reveals for any selected country the ten countries with the largest number of species in common. This provides an insight on which countries should work together to give to the largest number of species the best level of protection possible. Many species are found in numerous countries and the entire global population of each species needs protection wherever they are found.

Thailand is just one of nine countries in which the Sunda Pangolin is found and the Asian countries in this scatterplot share stewardship for many species.

 

An overview of country rankings

The ranking element of the National Report Cards provides, at a glance, an overview of species composition, human modification, protection status, and Species Protection Index ranking. With this ranking it’s easy to identify which countries have a high proportion of endemic species, a high level of protection, or a high need for additional protection. 

A work in progress

The 2020 iteration of the National Report Cards only considers land vertebrate species — but there are hundreds of thousands of invertebrate species, marine species, and plant species waiting to be assessed, analysed and mapped. With each species that’s added to the high-resolution Half-Earth Project Map, a more detailed picture emerges of which areas present the most viable opportunities for biodiversity conservation. 

Solving planetary problems requires a planetary solution — and every part of society has to work together to make it happen. The Half-Earth Project brings together a range of data partners, research partners, and supporters in its efforts  to protect half the land and sea. The National Report Cards are another contribution the Half-Earth Project is making to drive action on how to tackle the biodiversity crisis. 


Where can I find the National Report Cards?
To find the National Report Cards, simply visit the Half-Earth Project website. Launch the maps and click on a country. Once you select ‘Explore,’ you’ll be taken to the relevant National Report Card. You can also use the ‘find places’ search tool to quickly find your country of interest.

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