The story of the National Coordinating Group for Key Biodiversity Areas

By Ghassan Ramadan-Jaradi, PhD

Just one year ago, the National Coordinating Group for Key Biodiversity Areas was formed and convened its first meeting to present the principles of KBAs in September 2018 at the Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon (SPNL), a National Partner of BirdLife International. BirdLife. Early November 2018, the second meeting was convened to discuss some gaps in the application of the KBA criteria in the ocean, a matter that implicated a support from IUCN. The latter participated in March 2019 in the third meeting of the NCG-KN-BA with a basket of knowledge necessary to satisfy the curiosity of the group. Interestingly is that after the third meeting, the coordinating group becomes able to propose potential KBAs in the country, based on the scientific knowledge that is already available. This wasn’t seen to be applicable without the composition of the group from multidisciplinary scientists and representatives of Lebanese Environment Forum crowned by the participation of the Ministry of Environment. This particular group composition was essential to make up one of the aspects of a team that can be manipulated to support scientific conservation of important key biodiversity areas. In addition, the group composition involved putting together the right set of individuals with relevant expertise to accomplish the KBA goals and tasks and to maximize group effectiveness. Moreover, this group composition can be used to inform strategies for optimizing composition and enhancing effectiveness. As for the group composition, it is amazingly formed from 17 members, of them 14 are experts in ornithology (1), aquaculture (1), flora (3), marine ichthyology(1), freshwater ichthyology (1), herpetology (2), agronomy (1), mammalogy (1), Lepidoptera (1), Medicinal plants (1), Ecosystem services (2). They represent 5 main universities and one national center for scientific research. The contribution of Lebanese Environment Forum as well as the SPNL and the Ministry of Environment appeared to be crucial for the performance of the experts because the group composition is more complex than staffing individual positions and the members (experts and NGOs) must collaborate well if the group is to be effective. Our experience in the National Coordinating Group showed that the diversity of disciplines should be higher in order to increase research productivity and the integration of knowledge from experts to be deeper to mitigate the communication challenges. We also learnt that because identification, mapping and conservation of KBAs is a country driven task, the NCG would like to start asap on the ground to see results in the selected potential KBAs though research and validation of already gathered data, especially that many meetings should be avoided as they quietly suck away productivity by breaking everyone’s day into little chunks and robbing everyone of deep work. Worse, when people feel their time is being wasted in meetings, they can become disengaged. Thus, continuing with meetings without actions in the field will disappoint the members of the national group and reduce their interest in contribution and communications. Thankfully, this problem was temporary overcome by the members themselves who started their research on the ground with their own ambitions and wills.  If they don’t end up hearing about the financial support, at least they will have personalized content to include in their own publications. Thankfully and due to the strong dedication of the members, the results obtained till now from the field are promising. Whatsoever, the Director General of SPNL Mr. Assad Sarhal met recently at Cambridge UK with BildLife International and RSPB that are KBA Partners and reflected on accomplishments of the NCG-KBA and the need to start a project proposal for KBAs in Lebanon, which should preferably be initiated in the fall 2019. The ambiance and tonality of the meeting were practical, comfortable and positive.

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