- Biodiversity Conservation in Latin America and the Caribbean: Prioritizing Policies by Allen Blackman et al.
Many of the world's biodiversity hotspots are located in the Caribbean and Latin America. Highlights include Earth's largest expanse of humid tropical forests in the Amazon, the highly threatened Atlantic forest in Brazil, extensive grassland and savanna environments, deserts, the insular and coral reef systems of the Caribbean, and the diverse ecological mosaics in the highlands of Mexico, and Central and South America. In addition, there is a fascinating history of human use of natural resources in the region that provides contrasts and similarities with other parts of the world. This book makes an important and unique contribution by focusing in on the implications of this biodiversity for policy making for conservation.
In fact, the book's materials are presented in relationship to major types of conservation efforts, from regulatory and comanagement approaches to market-based programs, and also those meant to be implemented by respective national governments, such as reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation (typically known as REDD+). The format is in the style of an exhaustive and commented outline, with every approach described and characterized, and then evaluated in terms of issues and concerns. That outline is provided in two increasingly detailed and numbered lists at the start of the book, and then repeated as organizing features within the long chapter three on policies. With this format, the listed page numbers, and additional comparative data in the appendices, it is easy to use this book as a reference. In fact, that is its highest merit, and any university or research library providing resources for biodiversity conservation or regional studies on Latin America and the Caribbean should have the book available.
The other chapters are quite brief, with the first a short introduction on organization and methods (literature review, supported by targeted interviews with biodiversity specialists), the second a concise but useful overview of the ecological diversity of the region and recognized threats to its integrity, and the fourth a brief summary of the authors' recommended "lines of action." The tables in the book provide all sorts of comparative data on natural resource use, protected areas, environmental concerns, and government investments in conservation activities. The eight full-page maps would provide useful orientation to those unfamiliar with the region. The references are provided at the end of the book in relationship to the same headings and subheadings of the text, allowing for ease in tracking down the respective sources. In fact, this one book provides access to just about every biodiversity concern in the region as a whole, and in the individual countries involved.
Nevertheless, there are some important [End Page 227] overlooked topics. For example, "agroforestry" is a topic in the index, but "agrobiodiversity" is not. Deforestation is discussed in several places, but the relative roles of different drivers, including for example forest degradation due to land grabbing or the production of illicit drugs, are not given much attention. In fact, I felt like the conservation efforts mentioned stressed the status quo of what is typically done by governments and nongovernmental organizations. Thus, this would not be a good source to send a student to for information on underlying inequalities or power differentials that may be behind environmental contamination or land disputes, as examples. This book is a "one stop" choice for getting access to comparative data, but is perhaps not the best choice for provoking discussions about ultimate causes. In addition, I feel that biodiversity conservation nowadays needs to be rethought in terms of its objectives, given the directional changes being forced by climate change, and the implications of co-occurring demographic and economic shifts. There are many current debates on whether ecological restoration...