Actions to halt biodiversity loss generally benefit the climate

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The review highlights conservation actions which have the largest potential for mitigation of climate change.

Shin et al. 2022

A review in Global Change Biology examines conservation actions which have the largest potential for mitigation of climate change, highlighting that conservation actions have a variety of benefits and few trade-offs with climate change mitigation.

The study looked at the extent to which actions taken to halt or reverse biodiversity loss have consequences for these climate change mitigation processes, and how, when and where the form and strength of such links vary. The study identifies direct co-benefits in 14 out of the 21 action targets of the draft post-2020 global biodiversity framework of the Convention on Biological Diversity. These targets for 2030, which aim to contribute to the 2050 Vision for Biodiversity, were not primarily designed to have direct or indirect impacts on climate change mitigation, but have potential contributions to carbon capture, storage and sequestration, the albedo effect and non-CO2 GHG fluxes.

As the relationships between biodiversity and climate mitigation are context and scale-dependent, the study showcases local biodiversity conservation actions that can be incentivized, guided and prioritized by global objectives and targets. These actions include:

  • Restoring degraded natural areas and retaining existing intact wilderness areas.
  • Implementing a well-connected and effective system of protected areas.
  • Recovering and conserving wild species.
  • Ensuring sustainable harvesting of wild species, food production and supply chains.
  • Reducing pollution from excess nutrients.
  • Supporting the productivity, sustainability and resilience of biodiversity in agricultural and other managed ecosystems.
  • Increasing benefits from biodiversity and green/blue spaces in urban areas.
  • Mainstreaming biodiversity.
  • Eliminating unsustainable consumption patterns.
  • Eliminating incentives harmful for biodiversity.

A selection of case studies were then collated from across different continents, oceans and latitudes that cover a diversity of conservation measures, types of NCP, needs of local communities, socio-economic contexts and governance situations. These were used to unpack the enabling conditions (including incentives and governance factors) that have been effective in fulfilling multifunctional and multiple-use land- and sea-scape objectives simultaneously. Synergistic benefits are strongly dependent the biomes, ecosystem uses, and sectoral interactions under consideration, with win-win synergies and trade-offs hard to achieve at all parts of a landscape or seascape; instead becoming progressively easier at the multifunctional and multiple-use land- and sea-scape level.

Improving the linkages between the different scales of actions was found to be essential for successfully implementing joint biodiversity and climate actions, with locally motivated actions incentivized, guided and prioritized by international objectives and targets, rigorously based on evidence to avoid oversimplified objectives. The study highlighted the important of considering local to global policies and practices in an integrated and consultative way in mixed-use land- and sea-scapes, so that win-win synergies and nature’s contributions to people can be maximized.

Read more in the full Global Change Biology paper, Actions to halt biodiversity loss generally benefit the climate.