First Step to the Development of a National Biodiversity Monitoring Program
On Thursday, April 26th, 2012, the Environmental Research Institute (ERI) in collaboration with the National Protected Areas Secretariat, and the Forest and Fisheries Departments hosted the first national workshop for the development of a National Biodiversity Monitoring Program (NBMP). The workshop was held at the George Price Center for Peace and Development with the purpose of presenting a diagnostic report on current marine and terrestrial monitoring activities in Belize and also to develop the goal and objectives of the NBMP. Present were representatives from 22 different organizations who conduct or are associated with monitoring activities in Belize. These included the Belize Audubon Society (BAS), Department of the Environment (DOE), Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE), Ya’axché Conservation Trust, Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute (CZMAI) and Southern Environmental Association (SEA) to name a few.
The workshop opened with a briefing of the workshop’s objectives by the ERI’s Administrative and Science Director (Terrestrial), Dr. Elma Kay and remarks by Ms. Arlene Maheia of the National Protected Areas Secretariat and Ms. Tanya Santos of the Forest Department. Two working sessions which focused on developing the goal and objectives for the National Biodiversity Monitoring Program were held. The first working session was a general discussion amongst all participants to develop the goal and suggest outcomes of the NBMP. The second session was group oriented and objectives were developed under specific categories, which ranged from endangered species/species of concern to pressures/threats to biodiversity. Participants generally thought of the program as one which will focus on implementing coordinated standardized monitoring that indicates the status of biodiversity and natural resources and informs sustainable management, policy formulation and implementation.
The next step in the development of the program is to finalize the goal and objectives of the program in a meeting scheduled for next week. Following this, the formation of expert working groups will take place in order to start rationalizing indicators and protocols of the NBMP. The finalized goal and objectives along with proposed indicators will be presented and discussed at a later workshop scheduled for late June.
The ERI Monitoring Officer, Ivanna Waight, who is in charge of coordinating the development of the NBMP commented on the workshop saying:
“The presentation on the diagnostic report served its purpose on informing the organizations/partners about the status of marine and terrestrial monitoring activities and made them realize the need to database, analyze and report on the data being collected.. There was a good turnout of participants and we were able to develop a tentative goal and objectives for the program which still need to be finalized. Participants appeared to have a keen interest to contribute to the development and implementation of the program. Having their collaboration will surely allow for the successful development and implementation of the NBMP.”
She continued, “Based on the results of the diagnostic report, there is a clear need to have an overarching program such as the National Biodiversity Monitoring Program which will provide a system-wide/countrywide overview of biodiversity health and status. The program will address the need of having standardized indicators and protocols to conduct biodiversity monitoring to enable national data-sharing and data comparison across the system. It will also facilitate more data analysis and reporting which will assist in understanding trends in biodiversity health and status. “