Conserving the natural resources of the Guianas

Geographical location:

Latin America/Caribbean > LAC General

Latin America/Caribbean > South America > French Guiana (FR)
Latin America/Caribbean > South America > Guyana
Latin America/Caribbean > South America > Suriname

Channel-billed toucan (Ramphastos vitellinus). This toucan is the largest one encountered in the tropical rainforests of French Guiana.
© WWF-Canon / Roger LeGUEN

Summary

The Guianas – made up of French Guiana, Guyana and Suriname on the northeast coast of South America – have a rich diversity of coastal mangroves, globally significant marine turtle nesting beaches, fresh and saltwater swamps, grassy savannas, and pristine low and highland rainforests.

To combat threats from mining, logging and other human activities, WWF works with local communities, private and public sector institutions, non-governmental organizations and others to improve conservation and sustainable use of the area’s natural resources. This includes strengthening protected areas and regional cooperation.

Background

The interior of Suriname and of its 2 neighbouring countries, Guyana and French Guiana, hold more than 400,000km2 of undisturbed rainforest. Together with adjacent forest zones in Brazil and Venezuela, this area comprises the Guianan Ecoregional Complex. It has a rich biodiversity with an extremely high level of endemism. It is estimated that 40% of the flowering plant species in the Guianan Ecoregional Complex are found only there.

However, there is much yet to be discovered. Each new expedition or forest inventory reveals new species to science. Also the coastline of Suriname and the 2 neighbouring Guianas is of high national and international value due to its importance for migratory birds and nesting sea turtles.

WWF has supported conservation in the Guianan region since the mid-1960s. Its support has consisted of providing funds for, among others, sea turtles protection, anti-poaching measures for hunting species, biological surveys, educational materials, publications, technical support, and travel grants.

At present, the region faces serious threats from increasing requests for mining and logging concessions. Some concessions have already been granted by the government, and others are under consideration. Another pressing danger is the imminent plan for additional hydropower reservoirs with their concomitant flooding of large parts of the forest.

The goal is to conserve the integrity of the forest and freshwater ecosystems of the Guianas and maintain and conserve the ecological processes responsible for their equilibrium, in such a way that their social and economic roles are preserved, particularly the ecosystem services they provide to local communities.

Objectives

1. Protected Areas

Facilitate the protection of an interconnected system of key, fragile and/or representative sites across the Guianas to ensure that the forest ecosystems maintain their capacity to adapt to change, provide and sustain their ecological functions and processes, and sustainably support socio-economic services and benefits.

2. Goldmining Pollution Abatement

Contribute to the improved management of the small to medium scale gold mining sector, thereby reducing the pressure exerted on priority ecosystems of the Guianas as a result of deforestation and mercury contamination with a view to maintaining and eventually restoring their biological diversity.

3. Sustainable Forest Management (SFM)

Foster the effective enhancement of the sustainable use of the forest resources through improved governance, awareness, training and use of other strategic tools such as certification to increase sustainable forest management. Both small scale and industrial level forest production are an important part of the SFM programme.

4. Freshwater Conservation and Management

Ensure the conservation of freshwater ecosystems and their sustained contribution to Suriname's and Guyana’s socio-economic development.

5. Species Conservation and Management

Identify and maintain representative populations of wild species of conservation priority.

6. Environmental Education and Communications

Increase environmental awareness and knowledge, promote attitude changes and motivation of the general public and key actors, and take action to ensure that the ecosystems of the Guianas maintain their ecological functions and their capacity to sustain the region's socio-economic development.

Solution

This project aims at achieving a better management of the natural resources of Guyana, Suriname, and to a lesser extent French Guiana, and is structured around 6 major components listed above. To better align the sets of activities for each component, each of the first 5 components has been designed around 5 pillars:

1. Legislation and regulations improvement.
2. Institutional strengthening / training and capacity building (specifically governmental institutions).
3. Improved practices support (specifically for private sector and communities).
4. Education and awareness campaigns / exchange of information.
5. Monitoring and research.