By: CEEweb for Biodiversity, a network of 64 non-governmental organizations in the Central and Eastern European region. Our mission is the conservation of biodiversity through the promotion of sustainable development
This is part five of a 6 article series on policy recommendations for climate change. If you haven’t already, read the previous articles:
- The necessity of ecosystem-based adaptation to climate change at national level
- The ecosystem based approach in agriculture
- Ecosystem based approach for water
- The ecosystem based approach in forestry
Ecosystem-based approach in Nature conservation
As shown by previous examples, biodiversity and ecosystems are important allies for our adaptation to climate change in several sectors. Yet species and ecosystems themselves are also challenged by climate change. Effects of climate change have already been observed, such as:
- enhanced biodiversity loss, especially in fragmented habitats
- shifts in geographic ranges of species and vegetation zones towards northern and higher altitudes, which results in altering species composition of communities
- shifts in timing of seasonal events, with consequences in food web interactions
- enhanced spread of invasive alien species
Extreme climate change is now well within the bounds of possibility, which, cumulating with other pressures (pollution, land use change and fragmentation, overexploitation, invasive alien species), urgently calls for new, flexible and integrated conservation strategies. Framing such strategies it is not an easy task, as there are many questions to be clarified, such as:
- What to maintain: species / structure and function of habitats / ecological processes at large scale? At which level should we manage for resilience?
- Is current conservation enough to create resilience and enable natural adaptation (including migrations)?
- To what extent existing permeability of the landscape (including ecological networks) enables species’ migrations? How can it be improved?
- Should we revise our ideas about what is native and non-native species?
- How should we judge success of conservation efforts or assess the conservation value of a particular place in this new situation?
- How our efforts will interact with other sectors, including climate change adaptation and mitigation?
In CEEweb’s view, the most important goal of conservation strategies should be to maintain and if possible, strengthen the natural adaptation capacity of ecosystems. To achieve that, all kinds of anthropogenic pressures on biodiversity loss need to be decreased by targeting their common drivers. If the drivers remain untouched, we do nothing more than eliminate one pressure but at the same time enhance another one, leaving the challenge of biodiversity loss unsolved. This was exactly the case with the European Union’s efforts to halt biodiversity loss by 2010, which failed because its numerous measures were no more than end-of-pipe solutions.
Adaptive management of protected areas and Natura 2000 sites is necessary (including, among others the restoration of water retention capacity, enhancing the heterogeneity of sites so that it hosts habitats from all range of succession stages and restoring connectivity between fragmented sites), but not enough; we also have to work at the landscape level. It is absolute necessary to limit further degradation of green areas, and to stand for the largest possible reconstruction of natural cover. The overall natural status and permeability of landscapes needs to be enhanced by maintaining or restoring natural corridors as well as shifting more and more areas from intensive use towards sustainable use or non-use. This can only be achieved if ecosystem-based adaptation is integrated in all relevant sectoral policies.
In the last instalment on climate change policies and the ecosystem based approach read how the National Climate Change Strategies should and can target the roots of the problem.