Environmental Ethics

Volume 30, Issue 3, Fall 2008

Integrating Ecological Sciences and Environmental Ethics into Biocultural Conservation in South American Temperate Sub-Antarctic Ecosystems

Sergio Guevara, Javier Laborde
Pages 251-262

The Landscape Approach
Designing New Reserves for Protection of Biological and Cultural Diversity in Latin America

One of the greatest challenges for Latin America and the Caribbean, the most biologically and culturally diverse region in the world, is to halt the loss of species caused by habitat destruction and land degradation. Up to now, setting aside protected natural areas is con­sidered the most effective alternative to conserve biodiversity. Protected areas, however, are under increasing assault by agricultural, silvicultural, and industrial development that surround and isolate them, reducing their habitat quality at the landscape scale. Among the different types of protected areas that have been proposed, biosphere reserves stand out for their attempt to compatibilize social development and conservation. Their management is the most amenable to integration of natural and human disturbance, inclusion of traditional management techniques, and participation by social and economic sectors in the administration. Biosphere reserves have proliferated all over the world, and today there are 531 of them located in 105 countries, where they protect vast ecological and cultural diversity. Even though the design of biosphere reserves is based on the landscape concept, it has yet to take into account ecosystem scales, possible long-term effects of disturbances, and better integrate and give higher consideration to the knowledge and experience of numerous ethnic groups that live within them. However, doing so requires a transformation of the function of the core, buffer, and transition areas. The current design of biosphere reserves is centripetal because the main function of the buffer zone is to protect biodiversity in the core. We pro­pose a centrifugal model, where biodiversity of the core spreads freely toward the area of greater human influence with the buffer zone functioning as a connector. This connectivity can promote land-use practices that are in alignment with both ecosystems functioning and biodiversity conservation in natural, semi-natural, urban and industrial landscapes.