Wildlife conservation can help stabilize the climate • Earth.com
Biodiversity loss and climate change are the two most pressing environmental challenges facing humanity today. Although these two questions have been largely addressed separately, a new study published in the journal Biology of global change argues that many conservation actions that slow, stop, or reverse biodiversity loss could also benefit climate change.
According to the first draft of the “Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework”, published by the Secretariat of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), there are 21 targets that should be implemented by 2030 in order to to reduce potential threats to biodiversity by implementing tools and solutions to protect the incredible wealth of life forms on our planet. Now experts have found that 14 of those goals could also slow climate change.
One of them, for example, is to create protected areas and connect existing ones via natural corridors.
“There is growing evidence that the creation of new protected areas and the proper management of existing ones on land and at sea help to mitigate climate change through carbon capture and storage,” said the co-author. of the study, Josef Settele, biodiversity expert. and preservation at Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research.
Previous studies have shown that terrestrial protected areas around the world store 12-16% of the total global carbon stock, while deep-sea ecosystems also act as important carbon sinks.
Other biodiversity targets that could help mitigate climate change also include: restoring degraded ecosystems (eg tropical or subtropical forests) or coastal habitats (eg coral reefs or seagrass beds); develop green and blue infrastructure in cities (eg parks, lakes or green roofs); treat waste in a more sustainable way, separating biodegradable products from recyclable products; reduce pollution from excess nutrients; or increase the sustainability of food production and supply chains.
However, there may also be conflicting objectives between protecting biodiversity and protecting the climate. For example, although mimicking traditional land use systems (rather than intensifying or even abandoning land use) has clear benefits for biodiversity conservation by maintaining a high diversity of pollinators, it can have a negative impact on the climate by reducing the extent of the world’s forests, which can sequester far more carbon than agricultural land.
In addition, cattle or sheep farming releases methane, which is harmful to the climate. Thus, slowing climate change while implementing adaptation measures without losing biodiversity is often only possible through trade-offs, Professor Settele pointed out.
“There is also the risk that nature will be discussed as a way to solve the climate problem; that’s quite problematic,” added study co-author Hans-Otto Pörtner, a climate researcher at the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Center for Polar and Marine Research (AWI).
“The capacity of ecosystems to slow climate change is overestimated and climate change is undermining this capacity. Only when we succeed in drastically reducing emissions from fossil fuels can nature help us to stabilize the climate,” he concluded.
By Andrei Ionescu, Terre.com Personal editor