Biodiversity: Sector Results Profile

April 14, 2014

Curt Carnemark/World Bank

As a global institution whose mission is fostering “A World Free of Poverty,” the World Bank Group has been drawing the connections between environment, development and poverty reduction for many decades now. Biodiversity is the living natural capital that underpins conventionally measured economic growth and human well-being. It is essential for ecosystem functions that provide the flow of ecosystem goods and services and maintains resilience to disturbances such as climate change. It is also essential for poverty alleviation. 75% of the world’s poor – some 870 million people, including most of the extremely poor – live in rural areas, and biodiversity is particularly important for them. The livelihoods, well-being and safety nets of the rural poor are often inextricably linked to and dependent on natural and semi-natural ecosystems and features such as forests, rangelands, oceans, soils, freshwater and wildlife. Ecosystem goods and services account for more than half of the “GDP of the poor”. The WBG has been the world’s largest source of development finance for this sector. The overall WB biodiversity portfolio (IDA, IBRD and trust funds) of 245 projects in the ten years from FY2004 to FY2013 included direct biodiversity commitments worth over US$ 1 billion. These projects have taken place in 74 countries in all six of the WB’s regions ranging from support to protected areas, institution building, integrating biodiversity conservation into production landscapes, designing sustainable financing schemes for conservation to promoting nature tourism and fighting wildlife crime or invasive alien species.


The world is experiencing a dramatic loss of biodiversity that may undermine development opportunities and exacerbate risks, particularly for the poor. The loss of biodiversity is manifested in growing impacts on the provision of ecosystem services, such as clean water, food provision, and protection from environmental disasters, all of which are critical for human well-being and green growth. More than half of the world’s population depends on agriculture for its livelihoods, including 2.5 billion people living on small-scale farming in developing countries. The loss of agro-biodiversity may have consequences for our ability to respond to the demands for higher crop yields and productivity while simultaneously adapting to the challenges of climate change. Water provision is one of the most vital ecosystem services that biodiversity can help ensure, yet about 2.7 billion people experience severe water scarcity for at least one month per year. The loss of coral reefs has significant negative consequences for 350 million people living in coastal areas by reducing coastal protection and habitat for fish. Deforestation and land conversion contribute about 30% of global greenhouse emissions, and the loss of diversity reduces the resilience of ecosystems to disturbances. Environmental degradation and disasters – manifested by floods, erosion and sedimentation – threaten large-scale infrastructure investments in hydropower, irrigation or coastal defenses.  The combination of these global challenges – food security tied to agriculture and fisheries, water provision, protection from natural disasters – are intimately entwined in a complex web with healthy biodiversity.


Following three decades of experience investing in the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, the WBG recognizes that continued investment in nature is critical to alleviating extreme poverty by 2030 and accelerating inclusive green growth for shared prosperity. World Bank investments in this sector offer a number of important lessons for the conservation and sustainable use of, access to, and benefit sharing from biodiversity. With projects ranging from support to protected areas, institution building, integrating biodiversity conservation into production landscapes, designing sustainable financing schemes for conservation to promoting nature tourism and fighting wildlife crime or invasive alien species, the World Bank’s biodiversity portfolio covers a broad array of issues, and serves as a basis on which to build for the future.


Some of the results achieved with World Bank support (IBRD, IDA and trust funds), are as follows:

Clarifying access to, tenure of, and benefits from biodiversity establishes incentives and builds poor people’s assets. Weak governance and open-access resource regimes have frequently resulted in the degradation of common property resources, and greater focus on rights-based management can provide an avenue for managing the development-conservation tradeoff and help build assets for the poor as a way out of poverty. In Albania, building on the success of activities piloted under a preceding IDA investment in forest sector management, the Natural Resource Development project (FY06-12) confirmed usufruct rights and introduced participatory forest and pasture management in 251 communes, covering an area of 307,665 ha. The project created 105 Forest and Pasture Users Associations to support the sustainable management of community resources. This led to an 8% increase of incomes in project supported communities within the life of the project. The project also led to reforestation of 1,634 ha, sequestering an estimated 64,000 tCO2. In Mexico, the Second Community Forestry Project (FY05-09) placed 1.78 million ha under community zoning plans. Given the success of these plans, the government prepared an additional 451 zoning plans covering 2.64 million ha. In Namibia, community conservancies have been shown to have positive impacts on household welfare, raising revenues generated through the conservancies, in turn spurring the establishment of numerous new conservancies (Integrated Community-Based Ecosystem Management, FY05-11). Rights- and community-based management is not limited to land, as open-access regimes and the overexploitation of marine resources have been shown to cause billions of dollars in welfare losses in coastal communities and fisheries around the world. In Senegal, co-management areas have brought the Ngaparou fishery back from the brink of collapse in the space of four years, and rising fishing revenues have led to investment in value addition along the value chain (West Africa Regional Fisheries Project, FY11-present).

Biodiversity conservation and management can yield income and growth opportunities, but more effort is needed to fully understand and realize the potential. In Zambia’s Kafue National Park, World Bank support to the park authorities led to private investors tripling available accommodations, such that tourism visits rose markedly and park revenues grew ten-fold within six years (Support for Economic Expansion and Diversification, FY05-12). Similarly, in South Africa’s Greater Addo Elephant National Park, a US$5.5 million investment spurred US$14.5 million in private sector investment and the creation of 614 jobs (Greater Addo National Park Project, FY04-11). The Albania Natural Resource Development project led to an 8% increase in incomes in communities that rehabilitated and sustainably managed their forest and pasture resources (FY06-11). In the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, a 23% decline in seasonal outmigration was associated with average annual forest-based incomes rising from US$ 44 to 104 (FY03-10) as a result of the AP Community Forest Management Project. The Second Community Forestry Project in Mexico (FY05-09) showed a similar trend, as an estimated 6,200 people did not migrate from the project states as employment in the forest sector increased by 27 % and the net value of forest goods and services grew by 36 %. Conservative estimates of the impact of the Eastern Arc Conservation and Management Project in Tanzania (FY05-10) indicate that its 273 participatory forest management (PFM) sub-projects benefiting 520,000 individuals generated an average of US$ 100 per person annually.

The World Bank is now the largest provider of development assistance for combating environment and natural resources crime. In 2006, the World Bank was financing over US$ 310 million in investments for forest law enforcement and governance (FLEG) alone. A more recent review found that the level of funding had remained quite steady with ongoing commitments at around US$ 300 million supporting 39 projects covering forestry, fisheries, and wildlife law enforcement. Specifically, the World Bank has financed such diverse environmental law enforcement work as the establishment of a forest police agency in Lao PDR; a series of projects across South Asia on wildlife law enforcement; fisheries law enforcement projects in West Africa; park and protected areas ranger operations, including providing training and equipment, as well as log tracking and chain of custody systems in Liberia; and a forest crime detection and case tracking system and independent forest crime monitoring in Cambodia and other countries. The World Bank’s program of support to financial sector integrity is helping to bring anti-money laundering tools to bear in addressing environment and natural resources law enforcement (ENRLE). The World Bank initiated the concept of FLEG with its sponsorship of the first East Asia Ministerial Meeting on the subject in 2001, followed by similar meetings in Africa, Europe, and North Asia. With funding from the European Union through the European Neighborhood and Partnership Instrument, the World Bank set up a FLEG program that supports governments, civil society, and the private sector of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Russia, and Ukraine in the development of sound and sustainable forest management practices, including the prevention of illegal forestry activities. FLEG work can also increase the share of legal exports, increasing government revenues, as happened in Liberia following the introduction of a chain of custody system (Development Forestry Sector Management Project, FY07-12).

Working across landscapes drives strong economies and healthy communities. In the Acre State in the northwestern corner of Brazil, the state government has been making a concerted effort to bring services to its dispersed rural population and to move away from a growth model based on extraction of forest products and expansive agriculture. The project has provided rural communities with higher economic inclusion through improved access to agricultural extension services and stronger market chains for selected products, while resulting in a more securely managed natural endowment through improved sustainable forest management practices. Where previously 90 percent of Acre’s timber extraction was illegal, now the majority comes from approved forest management plans. Better land use planning has enabled the protection of forests and natural habitats. Real GDP has increased by over 44 percent and deforestation rates have declined by 70 percent. Acre is showing that safeguarding its natural wealth will also help lift its people out of poverty (Acre Social and Economic Inclusion and Sustainable Development Project – PROACRE, FY09-present).

Bank Group Contribution

The overall WB biodiversity portfolio of 245 projects in the ten years from FY2004 to 2013 included direct biodiversity commitments worth over US$ 1 billion. Of this, 27 percent came from GEF funds, while 69 percent came from IBRD/IDA. These projects have taken place in 74 countries in all six of the WBG’s regions. Most projects were in the Africa and in the Latin America and Caribbean regions, which between them accounted for more than two thirds of biodiversity projects. In 2013, new biodiversity commitments amounted to US$ 35 million relatively low compared to previous years, but the current pipeline contains projects worth US$ 269 million.


Global and regional partnerships are playing an important role in promoting biodiversity conservation.  Some of the key partnerships are as follows:

  • The Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund (CEPF) has brought together the governments of France and Japan together with the MacArthur Foundation, the European Commission and Conservation International, and awarded grants to over 1,600 civil society organizations to reduce threats to 21 critically endangered hotspots.
  • The Global Tiger Initiative launched in 2008 has helped strengthen political ownership by the 13 tiger countries of their endangered tiger populations.
  • The Save our Species (SOS) program seeks to leverage private sector engagement for funding for threatened species and has provided support to 75 species across 34 countries to date.
  • The International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime is a collaborative effort of five inter-governmental organizations to bring coordinated support to national wildlife law enforcement agencies and sub-regional networks.

 Moving Forward

Going forward, Bank investments in biodiversity will build on our comparative advantage as an institution that sets the benchmark for public development finance globally. The World Bank’s leadership and coordinating role within the donor community, complemented by access to trust funds and lending resources, can help mainstream biodiversity within national agendas as a critical part of sustainable development.

Four areas of emphasis have emerged from our decades of experience investing in biodiversity and ecosystem services:

(1) addressing policy failures through the design and application of new tools (e.g. to implement natural capital accounting), financing instruments (especially Development Policy Operations (DPOs), and partnerships (e.g. Wealth Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystem Services or WAVES);

(2) strengthening governance and the role of public sector agencies in partnership with the private sector and civil society, focusing in particular on improving systems of governance and institution-building;

(3) building resilience through investments in biodiversity and ecosystem services across landscapes in close collaboration with other sectors, particularly through the use of land-use planning, moving beyond sector silos, and mainstreaming the use of green infrastructure to reduce the exposure of physical and social capital to external shocks; and

(4) reducing governments’ exposure to volatile boom-and-bust financing by creating, piloting and mainstreaming financial mechanisms that enable long-term investment in nature and create financial flows from biodiversity and ecosystem services.


Training on navigation is used quite a lot during patrols. We’ve also been able to use training in the arrest of suspects through ambushes and takedowns. We’ve also found training in reconnaissance and first aid to be very helpful as well,” remarked Salak Chairacha, Enforcement Ranger Patrol Team Leader, TLNP.


It’s been a rigorous process but the long-term engagement of SOS over two years has meant we could take the time to build the formal partnerships and relationships we needed. Now we have a strong foundation for the future,” says Mr. Brad Rutherford, Executive Director of the Snow Leopard Trust. The community programmes launched with SOS support are being recognised as a key part of Pakistan’s strategy for meeting its national snow leopard survival objectives as well as the goals set by the Global Snow Leopard Forum.


350 million
people living in coastal areas experience significant negative consequences due to the loss of coral reefs