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Both climate and biodiversity must be conserved

Both climate and biodiversity must be conserved

We must rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and capture the carbon dioxide that is already in the atmosphere if we are to have any chance of limiting warming to levels we can handle. But if measures taken against the climate crisis simultaneously threaten and destroy biodiversity, we are risking our health, our economy, and our food and water supplies, as well as creating a breeding ground for future epidemics.

Why should we care about biodiversity and not just climate change? Do we really need biodiversity? The answer is yes. If you plant a forest with the same type of tree, drought can wipe out everything. Pests can destroy each individual tree, says Camille Parmesan, a professor in the Department of Biological and Marine Sciences at the University of Plymouth in England.

– This is important to all of us, even to those who only care about people. We cannot continue to maintain our way of life if we destroy biodiversity. We cannot have a landscape where we only grow crops and plant forests. Multiple, healthy ecosystems function better and are also better at absorbing carbon dioxide. So they are better at stopping global warming, and they are also better able to adapt to climate change, she continues.

She was one of the participants when 50 of the world’s leading climate change and biodiversity experts held a four-day digital meeting in December last year. It was the first collaboration between the organizations IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and IPBES, the intergovernmental science-policy platform on biodiversity and ecosystem services, which brings together the state of knowledge on biodiversity in the same way that the IPCC Climate Panel does Climate about climate. they change. Report from the meeting It was submitted last week, after being reviewed and approved by other researchers.

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The message in the report Clear: Climate change and biodiversity loss are serious threats to humanity, and the two are closely related. Both crises are caused by man, and neither of them can be resolved without taking into account the other. But with the help of nature, we can find solutions that can halt global warming and benefit biodiversity.

Treating climate, biodiversity and our human societies as interconnected systems is the key to successful outcomes, says Professor Hans Otto Portner, Head of the Department of Integrated Environmental Physiology at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Bremerhaven, Germany.

The report is dedicated to Bob Scholes, Professor of Systems Ecology at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, who together with Hans Otto Porttner led the work of the expert group. On April 28, he died suddenly after a hike in northern NamibiaHe is only 63 years old.

To get rid of the required amounts of carbon dioxide, there is a need to farm thousands of millions of hectares, all over the planet.

Robert Spall, IPBES Press Officer, started the report with a quote from Bob Scholes: “For far too long we who have been working on biodiversity conservation have only talked about ourselves. The result is that the loss of nature is seen as a distant problem and dealt with by others. But To win the battle of making the world sustainable, the most important place we have to work is the living landscape where ordinary people are. This means that it is everyone’s responsibility, and everyone has a role to play in ensuring that we have a sustainable future.”

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Work example Against climate change, which can be harmful to biodiversity, is the large-scale cultivation of energy forests and other plants for biofuel production.

Bioenergy is useful for halting climate change for two reasons. It can replace fossil fuels, and we can capture carbon dioxide from combustion and pump it underground, so we have negative emissions and remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, says Peter Smith, a professor in the department of biology and environmental sciences at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, and one of the co-authors. the report.

This technology is called bioenergy with carbon dioxide storage, or BECCS (Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage), where the carbon dioxide that plants absorb from the air when plants are burned is collected and stored in the underlying rock.

But there are some potential drawbacks to biodiversity. To get rid of the required amounts of carbon dioxide, there is a need to farm thousands of millions of hectares, all over the planet. It is often said that an area twice the size of India is required. And then we get into trouble because land is also needed to grow food and maintain biodiversity. But if bioenergy can be included in landscapes of different uses, I think it could be good. I don’t buy into the idea that bioenergy is always bad or that bioenergy will always be the answer. But I think there are good and bad ways to do it, says Peter Smith.

“Planting trees is right in some places, but in others it can be a disaster,” says Camille Parmesan.

Photo: Janerik Henrikson/TT

to plant trees Everywhere is not always the right solution.

It looks so good in the headlines that we just need to plant more trees. But we have to do it smart. Tree planting is true in some places, but in others it can be a disaster. To find solutions, we must know what to do, where and how, says Camille Parmesan.

Diverse landscapes with many different plants adapted to their environment and vegetation zone provide the best conditions for the absorption of carbon dioxide from the air, and are also resistant to climate change and pest infestations. Afforestation with species imported from other parts of the world can be the opposite.

– I recently wandered into such a forest in the UK. I will not offend the deserts by calling them a desert, the flourishing desert is beautiful, diverse and wonderful. This was futile. There was only one type of tree that did not belong to Britain. There was nothing else. No insects, no birds, no bushes. It could have been built with concrete just as easily. We can tell ourselves that it’s still good for the climate, but it really isn’t, says Camille Parmesan.

The researchers write that nature offers good solutions for both climate and biodiversity.

Restoring natural ecosystems such as mangroves, seagrass, meadows, peatlands, grasslands and savannas improves carbon dioxide uptake and is beneficial for biodiversity and for humans, says Hans-Otto Pörtner.

Read more: Seaweed cultivation should prevent erosion

Read more: How deforestation leads to new epidemics