Keynote: International Union for Conservation of Nature

Julia Marton-Lefèvre, Director General of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, discusses an important project that uses GIS to document plant and animal species threatened by extinction.

Jul 23rd, 2012

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00:01Okay, ladies and gentlemen, now we have our keynote speaker, a very special person.

00:07Well, she's following a long history of special people that have spoken to you...

00:11...Ralph Nader, Ed Wilson, Roger Tomlinson, well, Jane Goodall, Wangari Maathai, many people you remember.

00:26This year, we're going to hear from the head of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

00:33But before I introduce her, I'd like to actually show a brief video of that organization.

00:47How much do you love nature?

00:54Do you remember your first walk in a forest?

00:59Your first swim in the ocean?

01:02The first time you saw a wild animal?

01:06We all love nature, we all depend on nature.

01:14More than 40 percent of the world's oxygen comes from rain forests.

01:21Fifty percent of chemical medicines are based on nature.

01:27One hundred percent of our food comes from nature.

01:34Are we taking this for granted?

01:37We need nature to sustain us.

01:43IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature... the world's largest global environmental network, created in 1948.

01:53Together, we're working in more than 160 countries...

01:58...for a just world that values and conserves nature.

02:02With over 1,000 staff; more than 1,200 member organizations, including governments...

02:09...and NGOs; and almost 11,000 volunteer scientists and experts, together we gather...

02:24...the latest knowledge on biodiversity, assessing the status of species, and protecting our natural wonders.

02:42We run hundreds of field projects around the world, such as managing water resources...

02:48...restoring forests, protecting our coasts and oceans...

02:58...and helping companies improve their environmental performance.

03:08We are nature's voice on the international stage, at the IUCN World Conservation Congress... the United Nations General Assembly... international environmental negotiations.

03:22By investing in solutions offered by nature, we can address today's global challenges.

03:29Together, we can stop the extinction of plants and animals, help fight climate change...

03:43...restore natural resources, boost food security, and reduce poverty.

03:53When nature's healthy, our communities, economies, and countries prosper.

04:00Together, let's stand up for nature to create a better future for all of us.

04:10Join us now.

04:27Well, wow.

04:28Thank you.

04:32Julia Marton.



04:37Perfect, Monsieur Dangermond.

04:38Oh, very nice.

04:40French, obviously, Julia.

04:43Audience, Julia.

04:45Bonjour. Thank you. Thank you very much, Jack, and thank you for this welcome.

04:51I have to tell you that this morning I was blown away by everything that you know how to do.

04:58So it's a great pleasure to be here.

05:02So, just a month ago, on a remote Pacific island, the world of species conservation lost one of its icons.

05:12His name was Lonesome George, and he was the last of his kind...

05:18...giant tortoises that shuffled the earth during the age of dinosaurs.

05:24How many of you have ever seen Lonesome George?

05:28With George's death, the Pinta tortoise subspecies of the Galapagos has become extinct...

05:36...and the richness and diversity and beauty of life on this planet was diminished.

05:43Lonesome George's lonesome death was well documented...

05:48...unlike many other species that disappear from our planet totally unnoticed.

05:56In fact, while modern technology allows us to monitor the growth of global human population almost in real time...

06:07...we still don't know some of even most basic information about other life on our planet.

06:15How many species...animals, plants, and fungi...there are out there.

06:23Estimates range from 5 to 100 million, with the latest best estimate given by scientists at 8.7 million.

06:35Only a small proportion of this 8.7 million has been identified and described...

06:44...and named by scientists, so around 15 percent.

06:49The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species covers over 60,000...

06:55...or just 3 percent, of all known species.

07:01Still, the IUCN Red List is considered the world's most comprehensive and authoritative...

07:09...source of information on the conservation status of animals and plants.

07:16As you could see a moment ago, the Red List has categories describing the status...

07:22...ranging from least concern, which is not such bad news, to extinct, which is of course terrible.

07:32The Red List is the result of the efforts of thousands of volunteers...

07:38...participating in IUCN's Species Survival Commission... they work together around the world to map, maintain, and publish the data.

07:57...including on such species like bears, grasshoppers, and orchids.

07:59These are the logos of more than 100 specialist groups in our Species Survival Commission...

08:04I would also like to acknowledge and thank the nine organizations which are IUCN Red List partners...

08:11...including NatureServe, BirdLife, and Conservation International.

08:16As you could see in our video, the keyword was together...

08:20...and I think the keyword in this conference has been collaboration.

08:25Without working together in collaboration, we couldn't do what we do.

08:29It is really crucial for our work.

08:34The Red List does cover all major groups of species...

08:39...mammals, birds, amphibians, sharks, reef-building corals, conifers, cycads, mangroves, and sea grasses.

08:50We do have gaps, of course, and the biggest gaps are in fungi, plants, and invertebrates.

08:59So this sample of species indicates how life on earth is faring... little is known, and how urgent the need is to know more.

09:11A couple of years ago, a group of prominent scientists...

09:15...including E. O.Wilson and Simon Stuart...

09:18...who is here with us today, designed a concept... make the IUCN Red List representative of all life on earth.

09:28They called this idea "the barometer of life."

09:32So the idea is to bring together taxonomists, biogeographers, ecologists, conservationists...

09:40...and amateur naturalists to bridge the gap in our knowledge about global biodiversity.

09:48In practical terms, the barometer would triple the number of species currently assessed... 160,000, in just five years.

10:00Such a barometer would be one of the best investments for the good of humanity.

10:06At the moment, however, the barometer of life is falling rapidly.

10:12It shows us that a storm is, indeed, brewing.

10:19According to the latest update of the IUCN Red List, which we launched last month... the Rio conference, one in four mammals, one in eight birds, one in three corals...

10:33...and two out of three amphibians are threatened with extinction.

10:38Now just imagine if this were news about your family or your own physical well-being.

10:44You would be worried indeed.

10:47As an aside, one of the species on the Red List that is doing rather well is us, homo sapiens.

10:55We are listed as being of least concern, and of course, our population numbers are rising.

11:04So you may justly argue that species extinctions are a part of the natural evolutionary process.

11:13It is so, but what we are witnessing today is species disappearing up to 1,000 times faster...

11:22...than the natural extinction rates calculated from fossil records.

11:28So there is a good reason for us to care about wild species going the way of the dodo or Lonesome George.

11:37These species, together with their genes and the ecosystems in which they live...

11:43...known collectively as biodiversity, are the very foundation of our well-being...

11:50...and, indeed, our own survival on this planet.

11:55They are the source of our food, our water, our fiber, our shelter...

12:00...our medicine, and the list goes on and on.

12:04So can you imagine living on a planet where you would not have the pleasure...

12:08...of a walk in a beautiful forest or a swim in a clean lake, which I love to do?

12:15So on top of meeting these basic human needs, nature is also our source of inspiration.

12:23It recharges our batteries and nourishes our soul.

12:29Speaking of nourishment, more than one billion people worldwide...

12:34...depend on fish for their major source of protein.

12:39However, one in three fish stocks is currently being overfished.

12:46I don't need to remind you what happened when the once-flourishing North Atlantic cod fishery collapsed...

12:53...and the impacts this had on communities on Canada's Eastern Seaboard.

12:59In Newfoundland alone, over 35,000 people lost their jobs and their livelihoods.

13:06Around the world, overfishing costs an estimated US$50 billion a year.

13:16Now let's go to the land.

13:18On land, only four crops--wheat, maize, rice, and sugar--supply more than half...

13:26...of the calories and proteins in the human diet.

13:31So just imagine what would happen if we were to lose one or more of these.

13:38An historic example that is well-known to all of you is the Irish potato famine...

13:44...which killed over a million people and, of course, resulted in the greatest influx...

13:49...of Irish migrants coming to this country.

13:53So if we continue to lose many of the wild relatives of our staple crops as we do today...

14:01...we lose the genetic diversity to develop new strains of food crops that are more nutritious...

14:08...more resistant to disease, and more resilient in face of climate change.

14:15And remember what I said about our population growing.

14:17We're going to have to feed 9 to 10 billion people by 2050.

14:24I hope you also remember the vision of IUCN in that small video...

14:28..."a just world that values and conserves nature."

14:32Everyone has the right to have three square meals.

14:36So without this kind of diversity, we would literally be biting the hand that feeds us.

14:45Nature, of course, also keeps us healthy.

14:48Here in the United States, half of the 100 most prescribed drugs...

14:54...originate from wild species.

14:58One of these is Taxol, widely used in the treatment of cancer.

15:04Taxol comes from a tree called the Himalayan yew...

15:09...and this tree has just entered the top threat category...

15:15...Critically Endangered, on the IUCN Red List.

15:19So imagine how many more future cures could disappear before they're even discovered.

15:29Fortunately, not all news from the Red List is bad.

15:34Conservation has centuries-old roots, and there is increasing evidence...

15:40...that when we put our mind to it, it does work.

15:46One such good news is the story of the black-footed ferret...

15:50...which was considered to be extinct in the wild only 15 years ago.

15:56It has now been reintroduced back into the prairie... the western United States and in Mexico.

16:03I had a very good talk yesterday with the former governor of Wyoming...

16:07...and I have to just remind you that decisions like this depend not only on great data...

16:13...that's very important, but also leadership and good decision making.

16:19Here's another good story.

16:21Since the global ban on commercial whaling in 1968, the humpback whale...

16:27...has made a remarkable comeback, and its population now stands at 60,000 and growing.

16:36This recovery has also allowed for a thriving whale-watching industry to flourish.

16:43So just imagine if you could never have the experience of scouring the ocean... the hopes of sighting one of these magnificent creatures.

16:54The southern white rhino was poached to near extinction.

16:59By 1900, no more than 50 of these rhinos survived... a tiny, little protected area in South Africa.

17:08Thanks to strict conservation measures, 100 years later, there were approximately 20,000...

17:16...of these rhinos roaming throughout southern Africa.

17:21But even with this success, we cannot be complacent.

17:26You probably know that today we're witnessing the worst rhino poaching crisis... history, with rhino horns fetching record prices on the black market.

17:38So these stories illustrate why we need the Red List in the first place... understand the challenge, to set global conservation priorities, to mobilize...

17:51...conservation action, and of course, to influence good decision making.

17:58So what we need most is to connect data with action.

18:03Achieving all of this would be impossible without the cutting-edge GIS technology...

18:08...we've been listening to and hearing about all day today, provided by Esri.

18:16GIS helps us know where the species are.

18:20It has already helped us identify distribution information for about 40,000 species on the Red List.

18:29I remind you that we have been able to assess a little bit more than 60,000.

18:34So thanks to your wonderful technology, we know where to find, among others...

18:40...all the known mammals, birds, amphibians, and a quarter of the world's reptiles.

18:47GIS also helps us locate areas of high biodiversity importance and thereby... decisions about the conservation action and policy that's needed for these areas.

19:01So for this, IUCN aims to integrate the spatial information in the Red List...

19:08...and in the World Database on Protected Areas...

19:12...with two new products that we're working on just now on key biodiversity areas...

19:18...and on the Red List of ecosystems.

19:21This is but one area where IUCN can provide important inputs to government...

19:28...corporate, and NGO use of geodesign.

19:32This will help them make wise decisions to avoid further species and habitat loss...

19:39...and the consequences of this loss for all of us, for humanity.

19:46GIS also allows businesses to access and use biodiversity data for decision making.

19:54IUCN has been working with a Swiss cement company, Holcim... develop and implement a biodiversity management system.

20:04This system uses the data from the Red List and the World Database on Protected Areas... classify the biodiversity importance of present and future Holcim sites.

20:20Thanks to our collaboration with Esri, IUCN has built strong GIS capacity...

20:26...but we need to do a lot more.

20:29I'm very excited to launch here today a new map application for the Red List... now I'd like to invite my colleague Vineet Katariya to give us a demonstration.

20:40Vineet, please, over to you.

20:49Thank you, Julia.

20:51I was hired by IUCN to build capacity for the Red List six years back.

20:57Before that, species map had started trickling in, but we relied on external partners to give us GIS support.

21:04The vision for GIS came from Simon Stuart, who's sitting here.

21:08He has this incredible job of leading the army of 8,000 scientists...

21:13...who actually give us all this information.

21:17The investments in GIS have given us incredible results, as Julia said.

21:23We've got distribution information for about 40,000 species.

21:27We started in 2006 with one ArcInfo license from the Esri conservation grant program.

21:34Eighty percent of our staff and almost 2,000 of our scientists have access to GIS on the Red List.

21:42The Red List website provides authoritative information on about 60,000 wild species...

21:49...information that has been collected by scientists all over the world.

21:54You can search for species by the scientific name or the common name on the Red List website.

22:00So I'm going to search for the Indian rhino.

22:11The page for the Indian rhino on the Red List website gives you a wealth of information for the species.

22:16It gives you information on the Red List status; you can it's vulnerable.

22:20It gives you information on its assessment, its distribution...

22:24...its population, its preferred habitat, and all threats it's exposed to.

22:31A species distribution map is an important component of the Red List assessment process.

22:37This application built on 10.1 brings together six global biodiversity datasets.

22:44Each map gives you an interesting story on species.

22:50Here you can see the range of the Indian rhino; it's highly fragmented...

22:54...because habitat loss is one of the biggest threats to the species.

22:59You can see some beautiful pictures from ARKive.

23:04ARKive is an organization based in the UK.

23:11You can see some observations sourced from citizen science data.

23:16Here you can see pictures of the Indian rhino taken in the Kaziranga National Park in India.

23:29You can also see protected area boundaries overlaid with species range.

23:42This is very important, as 70 percent of the rhino population actually resides in protected areas.

23:48So this is a very species-specific site.

23:52Many of our users, in fact, most of our users really wanted to identify species in their area of interest.

23:58Find Species Near Me is an application which allows users to find species by location.

24:11You can search by location, for example, San Diego.

24:19It gives you a list of species, about 623 species found in this area.

24:25A look at the species tree will give you a list of species by its Red List category.

24:29You can see there are about seven endangered species... bird, a few mammals, and some other taxonomic groups.

24:36You also see there's a critically endangered species found here, which you all probably are familiar with.

24:42It's the California condor.

24:46The red on the map shows where the species is likely to be extirpated.

24:51You can also get the same results by drawing a point, line, or polygon.

24:58For example, if you were going to build a road here... would want to know the species that you're likely to impact.

25:05So it gives you a list of, again, 642 species.

25:09You can also search for species by protected areas.

25:12For example, if you were visiting a national park, you'd want to know what species were there.

25:16You could also select species by country if you wanted to know...

25:19...which threatened species occur in that country.

25:23So our scientists...we work with a group of scientists who come from all over the world.

25:28They're a very diverse group.

25:30They're often very busy people and lack the GIS skills necessary to give us distribution information.

25:37We built this application called the Species Map Editor, which has easy-to-use tools... which they can go online and provide us the species distribution.

25:49For example, this lemur based in Madagascar.

25:53If I was a scientist, I wanted to edit this species map, I could edit an existing species...

25:59...provide attribute information, and actually draw online.

26:05You could also use the species' preferred elevation to inform the species range, for example.

26:14You can then use drawing tools to draw species ranges online.

26:24You can edit the data online.

26:26Very easy-to-use tools here.

26:29Geoprocessing operations running in the background help maintain the integrity of the coastline.

26:37The species range map can now be published and sent off for peer review.

26:42The application also allows our scientists to map species through catchments...

26:47...which is the preferred protocol for mapping freshwater species, for example, these mollusks.

26:54You can see some catchments here; you can add required information about the species...

27:01...for example, whether it's reintroduced.

27:03Go to the next step, and you can select basins by point, polygon, or extent.

27:18The species map can now be printed and published and sent for peer review.

27:26So all this data on the Red List is available for noncommercial use freely.

27:32Users can go and search for data on the Red List website...

27:35...or they can actually go onto ArcGIS Online, where all this data is referenced.

27:40You can, once again, search for a common name or a scientific name... can search for the bison, you can get information on the metadata for the species...

28:01...and you can directly link to the Red List website where this data can be downloaded.

28:09Users, of course, need to register to download this data.

28:12As GIS professionals, I invite you to explore this very incredible resource...

28:16...utilize and download it, and utilize it in your daily decision-making process.

28:21At the end, I just want to take the opportunity to thank the team...

28:24...the applications prototype team at Esri, who've been supporting us in the last three months... particular, Hugh Keegan, John Grayson, and Mark Smith.

28:36A big, huge thank-you for them for helping us with all this work.

28:40Thank you, over to you, Julia.

28:42Thank you.

28:48Thank you, Vineet.

28:49If you think about it, the IUCN Red List has been going on for nearly 60 years...

28:54...and we certainly have changed with this amazing technology.

28:58And I'm sure that this sort of information will result in biodiversity information...

29:04...becoming a part, a regular part of the decision-making process.

29:09That's where we all have to get to, and soon.

29:12So ladies and gentlemen, the IUCN Red List must not be seen as the end of the line for species.

29:19It must mark a beginning of a new chapter in the story of conservation success.

29:25That's why IUCN launched the SOS, or the Save Our Species, initiative in 2010...

29:33...together with the World Bank and other partners, including the private sector.

29:38SOS has already helped conserve close to 100 species in over 30 countries.

29:46But we need your support, whether as a GIS professional, a scientist, a conservation volunteer...

29:54...or a concerned citizen willing to advocate...

29:58...for better and more inclusive consideration of biodiversity in decision making.

30:06We must invest in broader and deeper knowledge, make it more accessible to a wider audience...

30:13...and more applicable to a greater range of human activity.

30:18And we had great demonstrations about how that can be done this morning and this afternoon.

30:23So it's these latter two investments where GIS can play a critical role...

30:29...not only to organize and visualize the data but also to allow data on the Red List...

30:37...species to be incorporated into the geodesign decision-making framework.

30:44It's really a dream come true for me to be able to meet this amazing GIS community.

30:50You are the unique group of people most capable of understanding the value of GIS...

30:57...and what it brings to addressing the fate of the richness of life on our planet.

31:03I'm absolutely convinced that by joining forces between GIS geniuses such as yourselves...

31:10...and committed IUCN scientists, we can make a real difference.

31:18So, let us agree to focus on the present and the future and not look back on the demise of Lonesome George...

31:28...that is, except as a cautionary tale of what happens when human intellect...

31:35...and good intentions are not backed by advanced technology.

31:41That's why this Esri conference is so important.

31:45It provides a unique opportunity to bring our shared passions for nature...

31:50...together with your technological expertise to achieve great results.

31:57I'd like to invite all of you to come to the IUCN World Conservation Congress...

32:03...which will be held in early September in the beautiful South Korean island of Jeju.

32:09The congress, which takes place every four years, is the premiere global gathering... address the world's biggest conservation challenges.

32:19If we could have some of this technological explanations at our congress... would even be a greater event.

32:29So I close by reminding you that there is always hope.

32:34I'm sure none of you would be here if you didn't believe that.

32:38On the sad day that Lonesome George left us, we received some wonderful news...

32:45...from the Way Kambas Sanctuary in Indonesia...

32:49...where the third-ever Sumatran rhino was born in captivity.

32:54So here's a photo of four-day-old Andatu...

32:59...which means "the gift of god" in Bahasa Indonesia, with his mother, Ratu.

33:06The Sumatran rhino is very close to extinction...

33:11...and we in IUCN have made it our top priority for saving.

33:19In fact, we met with the president of Indonesia just last month... discuss the rhino crisis with him, and as a result of that meeting...

33:27...he has declared this year the international year of the rhino.

33:32Of course, we need a lot more than just big declarations.

33:35We all need to pull up our sleeves and make sure that Andatu will have...

33:39...lots of brothers, sisters, and cousins.

33:43So let's resolve among ourselves that the Sumatran rhino should never go...

33:48...the way of Lonesome George.

33:51IUCN will keep on this mission, and I hope you will join us.

33:56Thank you very much for your attention, and thank you, Jack, for this amazing opportunity.

34:00Thank you! Whoa, beautiful!

34:04Thank you.

34:05Thank you, Julia.

34:06Thank you very much.

34:07Thank you.

34:11Sorry about my voice, but I've...

34:13You're losing your voice.

34:14I lost it totally last week, and just because I wanted to be here, I willed it to come back. Beautiful.

34:19Thank you, thank you for doing that.

34:21It was absolutely important.

34:22[Unintelligible]...It was good.

34:27Pretty amazing woman, isn't she?

34:29I have a pretty amazing job. Thank you. You're an amazing person, too.

34:34Anyway. What do you think this group could do to help you, by the way?

34:39Thank you for asking, what a dream, another dream. Not only to be with you, but you asked.

34:43Well, I told you about our ambition to increase the knowledge...

34:47...about the status of species from the 62,000 that we have now to 160,000... just five years, and we've made a very careful budget that would cost 60 million dollars.

35:00I'm sure you don't have that quite in your pocket.

35:02Let's see here... Not really.

35:03But help us raise that money; it's not so much when you divide it by...

35:06...the number of species that we would be assessing.

35:10But we could take a first good step, and 3.5 million dollars would really help us...

35:16...upgrade, with your help, upgrade the technology so that the data is easily accessible...

35:22...and in the hands of decision makers who've got to make those wise decisions.

35:27And of course, the other thing, it's not only about money, but unfortunately...

35:30...we all do need some of that.

35:32The other thing is that, if the GIS community sitting in this room, and your friends... one of those species specialist groups, from the African elephant to the bumblebee... could adopt a specialist group and join forces so that the scientific expertise...

35:57...joins hands with your technological expertise.

36:00That would be another great way to help.

36:02This is kind of like adopting a teacher.

36:04Adopting a teacher, adopting...

36:05Adopting a species.

36:06Adopting a species.

36:07And you have this organized into groups already?

36:10We've got over 100 groups, really from all the species you can imagine.

36:15Again, all the species you see in these pictures here have a specialist group of committed scientists...

36:21...and if they had next to them committed, passionate...

36:25...and technically amazing GIS people, the result would be great.



36:33Well, come and...great.

36:35And of course, I mean, I know, if you're interested in faster action, join us... a partner in that SOS initiative, Save Our Species.

36:44That's really working on specific species.

36:46We're investing in saving these, and we've done quite well already in a very short time.

36:50So there are lots of ways, but just the fact that we're talking to each other is already a great help.

36:55And thank you to Esri for all the help you've already given us.

36:59We do a small thing compared to you.

37:02You don't know Julia; she spends half of her life on airplanes.

37:06You know, she speaks quietly and nicely.

37:09She works her ass off, actually, all the time.

37:12Trying to convince people to do the right thing.

37:14Yeah, and she's going to be available for you guys to meet...

37:18...and sign some of her publications tonight in the Sails, the Sail area.

37:22I think you have an exhibit there.

37:23We do have an exhibit.

37:24So you'll get a chance to meet.

37:26Great, thank you all.

37:27And volunteer?

37:28And get some volunteers.

37:29Do you have this organized into groups?

37:30I've got it organized into groups.

37:31Oh, I see.

37:33We'd love to have you. Thank you.

37:34Okay, Julia, thank you so much.

37:35Thank you very much.

37:36Thank you for this great...thank you.

37:37Thank you all.

37:38Good night.

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