Conserving Biodiversity in a Changing Climate: Guidance on Building Capacity to AdaptBy:
This guidance is aimed at those who plan and deliver conservation of terrestrial biodiversity. The six guiding principles described in this document summarise current thinking on how to reduce the impacts of climate change on biodiversity and how to adapt existing plans and projects in the light of climate change. Although this guidance is intended to inform implementation of the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, taking account of climate change is also relevant to the fulfilment of many international agreements and obligations affecting the UK, including the EU target to halt biodiversity loss by 2010. Proposals for policy change are beyond the scope of this document but because actions are ultimately linked to policy frameworks, there is also much to be done to review and strengthen policy at a country, UK and international level.
Two types of action need to be taken to address the challenge of climate change and biodiversity conservation. The first is adaptation, which means increasing the ability of natural systems to absorb and respond to change, given that the world is irrevocably committed to some degree of climate change. This guidance suggests what conservationists can do to contribute to this aim through the conservation plans and activities within their control.
The second type of action is mitigation, that is controlling and reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, the root cause of climate change. Although this is not the subject of this guide, it is recognised that hugely important decisions made about land management may exacerbate or reduce greenhouse gas emissions and some actions suggested here may contribute to mitigation. Our ability to predict the way in which biodiversity will be influenced by climate change is limited.
The obvious question is, if we cannot predict the future with certainty, how can we plan wildlife adaptation? In essence, we must learn to manage by taking account of uncertainty. We should choose actions that, on the basis of the best available evidence, are most likely to benefit biodiversity as well as other ecosystem services, such as soil conservation, air and water quality, flood alleviation, high-quality food, health, employment and recreation. Many adaptation actions proposed here will be beneficial whatever the extent, rate or direction of climate change.
Of course, measures or plans should be reviewed frequently and systematically to take account of current research on the impacts of climate change on biodiversity. In the next few years we may know more about the ecological processes involved, and we will need to assess the effectiveness of these guidelines and propose new adaptation techniques based upon research, practical experience and monitoring.
It is imperative to take action as soon as possible. Conservationists across government and the voluntary sector are now considering how to design not only networks of Protected Areas but also broader measures to conserve the ecosystems and biodiversity of the future rather than just trying to maintain what exists now. There will be some tough choices to make about allocations of resources to conserve individual species and habitats in the light of inevitable change, but there are also some real opportunities to integrate action for biodiversity with other sectors like agriculture, forestry, water management and land-use planning so accessing additional resources to secure a countryside rich in wildlife.
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DEFRA. (2007). Conserving biodiversity in a changing climate: Guidance on building capacity to adapt. London. Retrieved from CAKE: http://www.cakex.org/virtual-library/conserving-biodiversity-changing-cl...