How bushmeat could help us meet the world’s climate goals

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Hunting, capturing and eating wild meat comes with its share of risks, both in terms of environmental and human health. Bushmeat consumption – a term that can be applied to meat from a long roster of wild animals around the world – can lead to, for example, killing endangered species either accidentally or on purpose. There is untapped potential in practice, but we need to strike a balance between sustainable consumption, ecology and human traditions and livelihoods to make the most of it, new research gives suggestions.

A team led by Professor Martin Nielsen from the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Food and Resource Economics conducted more than 49 studies about wild meat for their paper. The source material published between 1973 and 2019 sought to measure how much wild meat, including several species of mammals and birds, contributed to the diets of a total of 150,000 people living in Amazonian and Afro-tropical regions. Primarily, this includes small-scale indigenous farmers living on the edge of the forest, who consume substantial amounts of bushmeat in the process of protecting their crops from hunting, Nielsen said, although some bushmeat comes from hunting expeditions. .

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In the paper, the team also offered a hypothetical—what if their wild meat consumption in these regions were replaced by cattle or poultry production? Answer: This will produce a large carbon footprint. This hypothetical replacement would yield an additional 71 tons of carbon in the case of cattle, or an additional three tons for chickens. Avoided emissions largely come from avoiding bites felling of trees for livestock production.

The team also calculated how much money regions could make through carbon credit schemes if people ate bushmeat instead of pets. $50 per ton CO. Using the Carbon Pricing Scenario of2In this article, researchers identified areas that could generate up to $3 million per year by sticking with bushmeat. “Any contribution to reducing carbon emissions is significant at this time,” Nielsen told Ars.

juggling act

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However, keeping bushmeat friendly to both humans and the environment is no easy feat. According to Nielsen, there is an ongoing debate about the importance of food from wild animals in the context of food security and cultural values ​​that in some cases, hunting wild animals for food is not sustainable and can lead to loss of biodiversity. was not managed properly.

Therefore, sustainable wild meat is about meeting multiple goals: feeding people, maintaining biodiversity, and—with a carbon credit plan—reducing emissions. The paper argues that a win-win situation is likely to be reached here only if the consumption of wild meat contributes to food security for those who are rural and indigenous, rather than consumers in urban markets. Those who have options. Many people who depend on wild animals as a food source do not necessarily have the funds to shift towards livestock production.

“Basically, expecting them to stop consuming bushmeat because we have concerns about sustainability and vulnerable species is kind of unforgivable,” he said.

Options for regulation include open and closed seasons for specific species, depending on the overall welfare of the population, and governments closing endangered or threatened wild game to hunting altogether. The paper suggests that areas may have local hunters hired as wildlife monitors capable of tracking population change. This may be particularly important as some endangered species may otherwise be hunted.

Hypothetically, money derived from carbon pricing—or a system where people are paid for not eating wild meat, such as how some countries Payment is made for not cutting down trees in its rainforests—such can also be used for conservation work, and the money can provide people in the area with other ways to earn money to support their livelihoods . Nielsen noted that, for the most part, most of the species hunted at these intersections between forests and fields are resilient. However, sometimes threatened or vulnerable species are also caught.

about 20 years

So far, these rules have not necessarily been implemented. In a 2003 paperIn this article, a group of wild meat experts made a series of recommendations for the best ways to handle wild meat. one more paper, to be published at the end of this October, shows that there are not many signs of adoption of these recommendations, so experts have had to investigate the issue themselves.

The result of that finding is a literature and policy review and includes an expert assessment of researchers in the field. It also re-evaluates some of the recommendations made in the 2003 paper (based on how important or relevant they are to today’s circumstances) and makes eight itself, some of which have been adapted from earlier work.

The extent to which the 2003 recommendations were implemented varied. For example, one suggestion was about increasing the data we have on prey species, such as their population size, reproductive biology, etc. While we still don’t know much, in 2002, we knew even less, according to Daniel Ingram, a co-author of the paper and a wildlife conservation researcher at the University of Stirling. We are learning more than a degree about some species, he said, pointing to the paca, a chubby, spotted rodent in Central America, where our knowledge has increased.

A 2003 study also states that hunting should not be combined with resource extraction—wood, minerals, oil, etc. Sometimes, when extraction industries come to an area, they cannot provide food to their workers. Local markets, sometimes selling wild meat, have opened as a result.

In some cases, not enough data has been collected to safely implement some of the 2003 paper’s recommendations, Ingram said. Furthermore, it is difficult to say how ecologically compatible the existing prey are. “In a lot of areas, we don’t know whether hunting rates are necessarily sustainable,” he told Ars.

Overall, the report found that not much progress has been made on the implementation of these recommendations.

big picture

In addition to tracking the progress of earlier recommendations, the new paper took a broader approach to the issue and studied people who largely consume wild meat, including remote indigenous peoples, rural people, and even That includes urban residents as well. Rural or indigenous people may eat wild meat out of necessity, while people living in urban areas may seek exotic meat as a luxury food. Others may have moved to the city from rural areas and would like to consume the foods of their youth.

Reducing urban demand for bushmeat can lead to significant reductions in the number of animals killed for food, and it is important to target such sustained consumption without impeding sustainable local use. However, these considerations will cause some issues. Few people in cities sell bushmeat to earn a living, so Ingram suggested that governments could ideally work with vendors to find alternative income streams.

Overall, both papers suggest setting hunting limits to protect environmental health—or, in the case of Nielsen’s paper, perhaps even reduce emissions—while ensuring that people have access to food and livelihoods. have access to what they need to survive and respect their cultural practices. But we are still far from understanding what it will look like. And according to Nielsen, we’re probably even further away from realizing it.

Nature, 2021. DOI: 10.1038/s41598-021-98282-4 (About DOI)

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