Sustainability Management in Practice: Student Work Helps Establish Conservation Act in Palau
In the beginning of 2015, David Prieto went off to Palau to study manta rays as part of his study of sustainability management at Columbia University. By the end of that year, the small island state in the western Pacific Ocean had used Prieto's work to pass a new law that protected manta rays from the growing traffic of boats that promise tourists a close-up experience with the majestic fish.
The Manta Ray Conservation Act of the Republic of Palau helped to create the sixth largest marine sanctuary in the world. The area spans the German Channel, a key maritime route, and the only direct passage from the tourist center in Koror to the most popular manta ray watching sites in the country. With tourism growing more than threefold since 2000, boats have increasingly injured manta rays in the German Channel. Manta ray watching tourism contributes more than U.S. $6.8 million annually to the economy, or about 2.5 percent of GDP.
Prieto worked with The Manta Trust, a nongovernmental organization, to develop sustainable tourism management practices. The study involved understanding the effects of boats on manta rays, accounting for the perceptions of tourist boat operators and divers, and forging a management plan that could safeguard the fish, while also preserving the livelihoods of the operators.
Survey results showed that the year 2015 was a poor one for manta ray watching. Divers reported that the number of boat operators in the German Channel had increased by 90 percent since 2010. This growth in traffic, the divers said, was bad for the manta rays and for tourism.
Prieto and his colleagues proposed measures that became part of Palau's new law. Under the Conservation Act, boats are prohibited from entering parts of the German Channel, and there are penalties for violators. The law also provides for ranger, who will enforce the law, training of operators, and a public awareness program for divers and snorkelers.
The new law, Prieto said, “was just a piece of the larger puzzle towards conserving the vast resources that our oceans have to offer, but this achievement could not have been accomplished without the support of The Earth Institute."
The M.S. in Sustainability Management trains students to integrate environmental concerns in the operations of organizations. The curriculum comprises 36 credits in the areas of integrative sustainability management, economics and quantitative analysis, the physical dimensions of sustainability, the public policy environment of sustainability management, and general and financial management.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Naomi Larsson
For centuries, the delicate silver dove has been a symbol of love and fidelity.
Biodiversity and Habitat Loss<p>Their near extinction is a symbol of the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-biodiversity-outlook-targets-extinction-summit-new-york-pledge/a-54932895" target="_blank">biodiversity crisis</a> in the UK, largely driven by habitat destruction. Britain is now one of the countries with the most <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/future-of-UK-nature#:~:text=The%20UK%20is%20one%20of,than%20half%20are%20in%20decline" target="_blank">depleted nature</a> in the world according to the World Wildlife Fund. Half its plant and animal species are in decline and more than <a href="https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/let-nature-sing-wales/#:~:text=a%20natural%20tragedy.-,Over%2040%20million%20birds%20have%20vanished%20from%20UK%20skies%20in,unaware%20of%20the%20impending%20danger" target="_blank">40 million birds</a> have vanished in just half a century.</p><p>"[Turtle doves] are the canary in the [coal] mine because there are all these other species before it and after it," said Tree. "It's an umbrella for all the other species that are heading that way."</p><p>Turtle doves migrate south through Europe to sub-Saharan Africa between July and September, ending up in dry woodland and farmland areas of countries like Mali and Senegal for winter. </p><p>Droughts in West Africa and the Sahel region are believed to have contributed to the fall in turtle dove species recorded in northern Europe, with low rainfall reducing supplies of the seeds and insects the birds rely on for energy for the long journey home.</p>
Conservation and Farming<p><a href="https://www.operationturtledove.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Operation Turtle Dove,</a> a partnership project of charities including the Essex Wildlife trust, works with landowners and farmers to actively build turtle dove habitat.</p><p>Outten works with <a href="https://www.ebws.org.uk/birdsites/blue-house-farm-ewt-north-fambridge" target="_blank">Blue House Farm</a>, a 660-acre nature reserve in the UK county of Essex, where they have replicated weedy fallow plots. </p><p>"We work on it every year to make sure it's in the condition it needs to be with plants such as clovers and black medic," Outten said. "These plants are native to the landscape and produce the seed the birds feed on." </p><p>The birds eat a wide range of seeds from various plants that would have been abundant 50 or 100 years ago, added Guy Anderson, program manager for species recovery with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). </p><p>"But it's simply true that with the gradual process of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/farming-without-pesticides-how-can-we-make-agriculture-greener/a-52216796" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intensifying our agricultural production</a>, the availability of those seeds has dropped and dropped," said Anderson.</p><p>Part of the project includes supplementary feeding — providing sources of food in the form of seed or grain. Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in England, farmers can receive financial support to create a turtle dove habitat. </p><p>Though they haven't recorded an increase in doves across the sites in the four years of working on the project, Outten said they are seeing improvements in how landowners and farmers manage habitat for the birds. </p>
A Turtle Dove Haven<p>The 3,500-acre Knepp Estate in West Sussex is another project taking a different approach and one of the few places where turtle dove numbers are increasing.</p><p>Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell converted their intensively farmed land into a rewilding project almost 20 years ago. They have let the land return to nature.</p><p>Just one year after they'd finished <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/uks-most-talented-architects-are-not-human/a-35952128" target="_blank">rewilding</a> the southern part of their property, they heard turtle doves for the first time. It's now a breeding hotspot for the birds with an estimated 19 pairs. Knepp is also home to <a href="https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding/rewilding-projects/knepp-estate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2% of the UK's population</a> of nightingales. </p><p>Tree is critical of supplementary feeding schemes that, in her view, are short term. She questions the chances of turtle doves getting to feed on scattered seeds before other mammals eat them first.</p>
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