Cautious conservation: How to ensure that slowing global warming will protect biodiversity

Nov 16, 2009

While it is clear that massive destruction of tropical rainforests poses a serious threat to the incredibly rich biodiversity found on Earth, other hazards are not so explicit. An international group of prominent scientists argue in the November 17th issue of the journal Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, that the most promising new strategy to protect our planet may not live up to its full potential. The group calls for global implementation of careful and sensible protective policies.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) consists of 192 countries that seek to develop intergovernmental policies addressing challenges posed by climate change. The UNFCCC will meet in Copenhagen in December of 2009 to complete an agreement to slow global warming by reducing caused by deforestation. Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) proposes to compensate tropical countries if they reduce their rate of deforestation, thereby reducing emissions, and includes strategies for conservation and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.

"REDD should have multiple benefits. But, unfortunately, although the final rules might safeguard carbon stocks, they may fall short of their potential to protect ," explains the author who organized the collaboration, Dr. Stuart L. Pimm from the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University. Dr. Pimm and colleagues explain in detail how REDD policies might have a less-than-advantageous impact on biodiversity and suggest how careful policies might reduce carbon emissions while benefiting biodiversity.

The researchers point out that if REDD emphasizes reducing deforestation rates, governments are likely to focus on areas that are cheapest to protect, and that areas with high biodiversity might not be cost-competitive. Furthermore, forests with the greatest density of carbon might not be the most essential locations for biodiversity conservation. There is also concern that processes will not be effectively abated by REDD but will simply be displaced to other areas. "Implementing REDD might accelerate the conversion and degradation of high-biodiversity areas where REDD or other conservation funding is not available," offers Dr. Pimm.

The authors make several suggestions for maximizing the positive biodiversity impacts of REDD policies. They propose that rules to assess, conserve, and perhaps even financially support biodiversity should be included in the text of the Copenhagen agreement. "Biodiversity, itself, is essential to ecosystem adaptation. Ensuring that REDD policies not only reduce carbon emissions but conserve biodiversity will ensure that humanity and the biosphere can be as resilient as possible to climate disruptions," concludes Dr. Pimm.

Source: Cell Press (news : web)

Explore further: Famed Galapagos tortoise 'Pepe the Missionary' dies

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Biofuels could hasten climate change

Apr 14, 2009

A new study finds that it will take more than 75 years for the carbon emissions saved through the use of biofuels to compensate for the carbon lost when biofuel plantations are established on forestlands. If the original ...

Recommended for you

Speckled beetle key to saving crops in Ethiopia

Aug 22, 2014

(Phys.org) —An invasive weed poses a serious and frightening threat to farming families in Ethiopia, but scientists from a Virginia Tech-led program have unleashed a new weapon in the fight against hunger: ...

New tool to assess noise impact on marine mammals

Aug 22, 2014

A new desktop tool which will allow offshore renewable energy developers to assess the likely impacts of their projects on marine mammal populations has been developed by scientists at the University of St ...

Of bees, mites, and viruses

Aug 21, 2014

Honeybee colonies are dying at alarming rates worldwide. A variety of factors have been proposed to explain their decline, but the exact cause—and how bees can be saved—remains unclear. An article published on August ...

User comments : 0