The Democratic Republic of S. Tomé and Príncipe, knowing that it is of the utmost importance to protect and preserve biological diversity, and concerns all of humankind, has decided to face its responsibilities and look for effective, viable solutions for sustainable development.
The present report intends to describe the actual situation of biodiversity in the archipelago and derives from the country’s international commitments.
For this document to be compiled, the consultants sought advice from several persons involved in environmental issues, went on visits to specific sites, promoted 2 seminars, one of them in S. Tomé and the other one in Príncipe; researched websites that gave them access to similar studies undertaken elsewhere in the world; reviewed extant literature, including the first country report on biodiversity and the Biodiversity Action Plan, which already engages the authorities in the country.
The study on pressures and threats hanging over the many species present in the 4 ecosystems described in this study allowed us to present a few measures, herein consigned as recommendations, in order to promote the sustainability of said ecosystems, their protection and the preservation of specific and genetic biodiversity.
“Biodiversity” is a new word that stands for a degree of variety in animal, plant and microscopic species. Currently, over 1,720,000 species of living beings are known, with new species described every year. These include 40,000 vertebrates and 750,000 insects.1
Climate change negatively impacts genetic diversity and is at the root of the disappearance of roughly one million plant and animal species. The degradation of biodiversity has grown to an alarming scale all over the world. S. Tomé and Príncipe has not been unharmed, although the loss is not yet quantifiable. Biodiversity has waned among cultivated, domesticated and other species.
Through consultation, interviews and visits, we have found the country’s been looking for the means to take action on the recommendations of article 6 in the Convention, namely on strategy design and deployment, national plans and programs to protect, preserve and implement sustainable use of biodiversity; and there's been an effort to include these objectives in specific plans, sectoral and inter-sectoral. We’ve also realized that the means thus far available are insufficient and do not satisfy real needs when it comes to preserving and protecting the ecosystems we’ve studied. The 4 ecosystems are under strong anthropic pressure and do not possess reliable, durable mechanisms to ensure their balance and prevent possible catastrophes.2
The international community, fully aware of how important it is to preserve biological diversity and its intrinsic values (ecological, genetic, social, economic, scientific, educational, recreational, cultural and aesthetic), driven by an undeniable need to implement actions towards the prevention of a global catastrophe for life in the planet, has decided, through the Convention on Biological Diversity, to set forth an international legal instrument concerned with 3 fundamental objectives3:
Preservation of biodiversity;
Sustainable use of its components;
Fair and equitable sharing of benefits derived from such use.
That these objectives may bear fruit, the Convention presses for the elaboration of national and international strategies that take on the preservation and protection of nature, as well as sustainable use of biodiversity.
This report on biodiversity, to be presented to the Conference of Signataries of the Convention on Biodiversity at São Tomé and Príncipe, stems from the ineluctable need to act now and prevent a global catastrophe for life in the planet. Through reading and analysis, the report intends to foster:
Increased dynamics in the implementation of a national strategy for adequate management of biodiversity and an action plan to protect and preserve biological diversity;
Continued design of measures towards sustainability of biological resource use.
More appropriate measures to allow for fair and equitable distribution of the benefits of biological and genetic resources;
Reinforcement of ample international, regional and sub-regional cooperation to bolster studies and scientific/economic exchange of relevance in the field of biodiversity.
In order to meet the objectives set forth in the terms of reference and make the document easier to read, we’ve structured it into 4 chapters:
Chapter I provides an introduction and reiterates engagement from São Tomé and Príncipe concerning the Convention and international commitments towards the goals of the Convention.
Chapter II presents biodiversity in the country through descriptive approaches to the flora and fauna in the ecosystems studied herein.
Chapter III reports on current biodiversity status and indicated pressures and main threats.
Chapter IV presents our conclusions and final recommendations.
These 4 chapters are not airtight but systematically interrelated, so as to shed all the light we can on the problems of preserving biodiversity, on the achievements up to now and possible enhancements to sustainable resource management.
CHAPTER I - INTRODUCTION
1. General introduction
This report includes an updated version of the data gathered on biodiversity in the archipelago and relies on extant literature, such as the first country report on biodiversity and the biodiversity action plan which already has elicited engagement from the country's authorities.
In June 1992 STP signed the Convention on Biodiversity at the Rio de Janeiro Summit. Soon after, the country benefited from funding towards the draft of a first report on biodiversity as well as the national strategy and the biodiversity action plan (ENPAB), under article 7 of the Convention.1
The present report builds on the first and its general goal is to study and analyze biodiversity in São Tomé and Príncipe and allow for understanding of its current state.
These documents (first, second and third reports), therefore, provide the country with scientific data on current biodiversity. These should allow for minimization of threats and the implementation of responsible governance towards protection, preservation and sustainable use of resources, for sustainable development and the fight against poverty. These resources are renewable but limited. Only through better management can we secure nourishment for our population and economic and ecologic security for future generations. Therefore, biodiversity must be at the center of development programs, which so far privilege humans, the main modifiers of all ecosystems.
Also to seek funding for environmental literacy measures, which the country badly needs, our study of flora, fauna and abiotic components has taken a form that leads to actionable recommendations about the four ecosystems included in this paper: Coastal/Marine, Inland Water, Forest and Agrarian Ecosystems.
They contain a significant portion of the world’s biodiversity, on which the future of humankind also depends.2 Coastal and Inland Water ecosystems are particularly important to the RAMSAR Convention on humid areas of international importance, especially as places where aquatic birds may be found in their trophic context.
Therefore, the components of said ecosystems must be continually studied and protected. This will only be possible if we can rely on support from communities located near or in the ecosystems themselves. These communities must be encouraged to collaborate in the maintenance of these ecosystems. We need coherent policy based on the need to produce without depleting natural resources, to cull without replanting, to eliminate erosion and pollution, to protect what’s left of the environment and the wild or domestic species that are part of it; to develop means of information to coordinate environmental data in a consistent manner; all this to support sensible decisions on the environment.