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In its work on ecosystem management, which is of particular significance to the Sustainable Development Goals on conserving and sustainably managing terrestrial and ocean ecosystems, UNEP focuses on the following areas:

Assisting countries in incorporating the value and the long-term function of ecosystems in planning and accounting frameworks.

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Assisting countries to use an ecosystem approach to managing terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.

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Assisting countries to use an ecosystem approach in marine ecosystem management.

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IN PICTURES

Building knowledge and enabling conditions

Ecosystems – complex webs of living organisms and other natural resources – play a critical role in supporting human well-being and driving economic growth through the services they provide such as food, water, pollination and climate regulation. As such, their continued health will be vital to the world’s sustainable development aspirations. To help create an enabling environment for countries to understand and conserve these services, UNEP assists governments to quantify and understand the value of ecosystems and how to best use that information in their national decision-making processes.

Over the last two years, 17 countries – from a total of 61 working on the subject with UNEP, including through the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) – completed a valuation of their ecosystems. Seven countries – including Guatemala, Kenya and the United States – were able to use valuation data on priority ecosystem services in their national accounting and budgeting processes, meeting the target set for December 2015. See In Focus Page

17 countries

completed a valuation of their own ecosystems

Productivity of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems

UNEP supported 58 countries to enable different sectors to use an ecosystem approach. The result of this support is that eight countries, over the last two years, have taken steps to integrate the ecosystem approach into sector-based natural resource management, bringing the total to 25 countries, in line with targeted results.

UNEP support to countries to use an ecosystem approach

Country

Angola Open/Close

Result
In conjunction with the Mayombe Transboundary Conservation Agreement, Angola – which will host World Environment Day 2016 to draw attention to the fight against the illegal wildlife trade – gazetted a first protected area.

Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Mali, Togo Open/Close

Result
Finance secured for the implementation of the Strategic Action Plan for Volta Basin.

Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Uganda Open/Close

Result
Signature of the Treaty of the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration, which aims to protect mountain gorillas and their landscapes, as well as the communities that depend on them through tourism, in Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Indonesia Open/Close

Result
The ecosystem approach was used in Sumatra to establish a spatial plan and a strategic landscapes document.

South Africa Open/Close

Result
Increased its investment by $4 million to restore the water catchment area of the Ntabelanga Dam.

Great Apes Survival Partnership responds to Borneo fires

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As fires ravaged Southeast Asia last year, the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP) stepped up its support to affected great ape populations. Annual fires set to clear land for agricultural development on Borneo, where the majority of the remaining 70,000 orangutans in the wild live, were whipped beyond control by El Niño meteorological conditions, resulting in the loss of one-third of the orangutans’ forests.

As fires ravaged Southeast Asia last year, the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP) stepped up its support to affected great ape populations. Annual fires set to clear land for agricultural development on Borneo, where the majority of the remaining 70,000 orangutans in the wild live, were whipped beyond control by El Niño meteorological conditions, resulting in the loss of one-third of the orangutans’ forests.

The fires left orangutan rehabilitation centers overwhelmed by rescued apes. The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil donated $100,000 to GRASP projects in Borneo, which were used to fund orangutan rescue and rehabilitation, fire-fighting, and habitat protection projects. Efforts in Borneo were further boosted when two new organizations joined GRASP in December: Orangutan Appeal UK, which provides direct support to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Sabah, and the Gunung Palung Orangutan Conservation Program, which engages local communities and governments in the conservation of wild populations in West Kalimantan. GRASP has added 21 partners since 2013, with 102 governments, research institutions, United Nations agencies, conservation organizations and private supporters committed to the protection of greatapes and their habitats.

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Productivity of marine ecosystems

Country action towards addressing marine litter increased substantially over the last two years with the G7 and the Barcelona, Cartagena, Helsinki and OSPAR Conventions agreeing upon marine...

Productivity of marine ecosystems

Country action towards addressing marine litter increased substantially over the last two years with the G7 and the Barcelona, Cartagena, Helsinki and OSPAR Conventions agreeing upon marine litter action plans. At national and sub-national levels, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Nigeria, Panama and Samoa are working on action plans on marine litter.

UNEP’s Regional Seas Programmes and the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities (GPA) are the main vehicles UNEP utilizes to support countries in integrating the ecosystem approach in their efforts to sustain coastal and marine ecosystems.

UNEP also enabled 14 countries to use an ecosystem approach to sustain ecosystem services from coastal and marine systems. Viet Nam launched its National Integrated Coastal Zone Management Strategy, while Palau in October created the Palau Marine Sanctuary – an area in which no fishing, or other uses such as drilling for oil, will be permitted. The Bahamas, which has been supported in its endeavours by UNEP and the Global Environment Facility since 2009, also announced the creation of 24 new marine protected areas and the expansion of 3 existing national parks, thus adding around 3 million hectares to its marine protected areas and reserves system. Caribbean states signed up to the Caribbean Challenge Initiative (CCI) have agreed to a goal of protecting 20% of their coastal and marine ecosystems by 2020.

Another highlight was the adoption of the Biodiversity Protocol by the parties to the Tehran Convention, which obliges the Parties to work together beyond national borders in the conservation and restoration of the Caspian Sea. Governments also agreed to establish a permanent Secretariat of the Convention, under the administration of UNEP.

Biodegradable plastics not the answer

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To mark the 20th anniversary of the GPA, a report was released in November to highlight concerns over the widespread adoption of products labelled ‘biodegradable’.

To mark the 20th anniversary of the GPA, a report was released in November to highlight concerns over the widespread adoption of products labelled ‘biodegradable’.

Biodegradable Plastics and Marine Litter. Misconceptions, Concerns and Impacts on Marine Environments found that complete biodegradation of plastics occurs in conditions that are rarely, if ever, met in marine environments. There is also evidence suggesting that labelling products as ‘biodegradable’ increases the public’s inclination to litter.

500,000 sq/km set aside for protection

“Island communities have been among the hardest hit by the threats facing the ocean. Creating this santuary is a bold move that the people of Palau recognize as essential to our survival. We want to lead the way in restoring the health of the ocean for future generations.”
Palau President Tommy E. Remengesau Jr.
(A 2014 UNEP Champion of the Earth)

For more information on UNEP's work on Ecosystem Management, please visit our Ecosystem Management page or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

For more details on performance indicators and finances, please download UNEP's Programme Performance Report for 2014-2015