Brazilian ecologist and biodiversity conservationist Marcia Marques reveals that her love for nature since childhood motivated her to pursue a career in applied ecology. She believes that conservation biology is vital for protecting and restoring tropical forest biodiversity in the face of increasing human population growth and land-use change emphasizing the importance of promoting sustainable use of tropical forest resources and the participation and leadership of women in conservation research and management. Finally, she suggests that young women interested in pursuing a career in biodiversity conservation should believe in their potential and recognize the women of the past who conquered spaces for their present journey
I have been interested in nature since my childhood, when I lived in small towns and with rural life nearby. I had regular training in the biological sciences, with empirical studies in ecology. At the beginning of my professional life in academia, I began to realize the urgency of environmental problems in Brazil, a mega-diverse country with so many social inequalities. From then on, I began to think of science as a way of changing reality, which is why my scientific work became increasingly applied, both to raise awareness of the problems caused by humans on natural ecosystems and to imagine possible futures. Today my focus is much more applied. Despite Brazil having suffered an intense attack on its natural resources in the last four years, scientists remained united and played an important role in the resistance against negationist and the anti-democratic government. This is a factor that encourages our work.
Conservation science, which had a great development from the 70s and 80s, played a very important role in showing the world the collapse of populations and biodiversity. With the emergence of the sustainability paradigm, especially after Rio 92, it was possible to discuss biodiversity and ecosystem services in a broader context, including the social and economic aspects that affect the planet. Today we know the central role of tropical forests for humanity to deal with the climate emergency. Especially the Amazon, the largest tropical forest in the world, accounts for a large part of the climate and water regime of the entire planet. But many other tropical forests, such as the Brazilian Atlantic Forest, which have already been extremely reduced (there is only 12% of the Atlantic Forest that originally existed), continue to be important in guaranteeing the provision of ecosystem services that supports economic systems (for example, the pollination of crops that support the commodities trade). Therefore, in addition to preventing the advance of deforestation in areas that are still forested (such as the Amazon), we have to promote the restoration of already depleted systems, at the risk of further increasing social inequalities between people, which inevitably generates pressure on natural areas. The task is immense, but we have no other way.
Since IPBES started its work and published its reports that demonstrate the importance of biodiversity for people, biodiversity conservation has taken on a much broader dimension. Scientific evidences show that people anywhere in the world are directly or directly dependent on functioning ecosystems that support life. Especially tropical forests, which are the biome with the greatest biodiversity on the planet, are also associated with some of the most important human demands, such as climate and water regulation and food production, on globally relevant scales. In addition, these forests are also important for providing cultural and spiritual services, at a time when humanity needs to rediscover important ethical values for the survival of our species. Therefore, conserving biodiversity and making sustainable use of its resources must be, obligatorily, at the heart of the decisions we must take in the coming decades.
Since antiquity, women have played an important role in dealing with nature, whether in food production, collecting and processing forest products, or restoring systems that have been degraded. The very mythological figure of nature in several cultures is a female figure, who is also related to the generation of life. In modernity, women have been occupying its social space more and more, including the recognition of their leadership in many activities of care for nature. In science, women are increasingly present at universities and taking important leadership roles in conservation research. It is important to say that this occupation of spaces came from a struggle by the women themselves, in addition to their competence in carrying out research. Considering that half of the world's population is women, it would be a big mistake not to include them in research committees, in the leadership of working groups, and in the spheres of political dispute where the conservation of biodiversity is effective. Policies for the inclusion of women, such as reservation of vacancies in universities, institutional support for maternity, fight against harassment, etc., are still necessary.
Indigenous people are the ancestral guardians of rainforests around the world. Unfortunately, modern cultures have not only failed to recognize their important role as inspiration for the sustainability ideals that the world needs, but have also decimated their populations, as we are currently seeing happen in Brazil with the Yanomami people. There will be no future for biodiversity without these peoples.
We are starting a new project that aims to create practical mechanisms that allow associating the carbon market with the conservation of biodiversity in areas under restoration. What motivated us for this research was the perception that there is still a need for a deeper debate about the real contribution of the carbon market to the climate change agendas, but also the biodiversity agenda. Therefore, we intend to contribute to SDG 13 and 15.
I would say that they believe in their potential, seek the best training they can access, be aware of opportunities. Recognize the women of the past who conquered spaces for their present journey and never stop fighting for the women of the future to have better working conditions.
Marcia Marques is Full Professor at the Federal University of Paraná, Brazil. Her research interest is the distribution patterns of biodiversity and ecosystem services, disturbance and restoration of tropical forests, especially the Atlantic Forest. She acts voluntarily in debate forums between science, policy and decision-making in biodiversity conservation.