Editor’s note: This is the first of two articles S&S will be publishing concerning climate change and biodiversity. This week’s article examines links between the two and some of the key players. Part two can be seen here.
We cannot address biodiversity loss without tackling climate change, but tackling climate change is equally impossible without addressing biodiversity loss. Preserving and restoring ecosystems can help us reduce the magnitude of climate change and cope with its impact.
The Impacts of Climate Change on Biodiversity Assesment Report concluded that climate change will have significant impacts on many aspects of biodiversity. These impacts will include impacts on genetic diversity and ecological interactions within ecosystems and constituent species. The consequences of these impacts are important to the long-term stability of the Natural World and the many benefits and services people derive from it.
In addition, the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) is crucial. It is necessary and even vital to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 ° C compared to higher levels. Adaptation will be less difficult. Our world will experience less negative impacts around the density and frequency of extreme events, resources, ecosystems, biodiversity, food security, cities, tourism and carbon removal.
Why biodiversity loss is equally important as climate change?
The first thing that comes to mind when talking about biodiversity is a richness of species. And when it comes to biodiversity loss, the vast majority of people will associate it with the loss of certain species from an ecosystem or biosphere. However this is the wrong approach because, in the long run, other subtle factors affecting ecosystem health would be overlooked.
An ecosystem basically works off of interactions between the living and non-living. That means each species plays an important role and the extinction of certain species greatly affect the ecosystem’s balance. For example, a bee colony is responsible for pollinating 300 million flowers a day. Plants we consume, such as fruits, nuts and vegetables, are pollinated by bees. In fact, 90% of the world’s nutrition is based on bee pollination. In other words decreasing the bee population poses a great threat to agriculture and nutrition.
Another important example may be gray wolves, which once roamed widely across more than two-thirds of the U.S. but were hunted nearly to extinction by the 1930s because of the threat they pose to livestock. Wolf conservation groups estimate there were anywhere from 250,000 to 2 million gray wolves in the continental U.S. before colonization. Today there are approximately 6,000 gray wolves across the lower 48 states. A population of about 4,400 live in the Great Lakes area and some 1,700 live in the northwestern U.S.
Reliable data from Yellowstone National Park make clear that wolves have helped to reduce elk numbers and have changed elk foraging behavior, allowing for vegetation to recover from chronic over-browsing. That has helped create greater ecological diversity and resilience, at least on the Park’s Northern Range.
Although, Washington’s wolves still face many challenges, Gov. Jay Inslee sent a letter on September 4th, 2020, directing the state Department of Fish and Wildlife to initiate new rulemaking relating to wolf management.
The directive comes after the governor accepted an appeal from the Center for Biological Diversity challenging the Department’s decision to deny the Center’s petition to amend current wolf management rules. Specifically, the petition argues that current rules fail to prioritize non-lethal management of endangered wolves.
“While I cannot legally prescribe the specific policies that must be included in this new rule, I ask that DFW include clear and enforceable measures in the proposed rule to achieve the following management outcomes:
- Standardized definition and requirements for the use of range riders;
- Requirements for use of non-lethal deterrents most appropriate for specified situations (wolf population and range, size and location of livestock operation, terrain and habitat, history of depredation);
- Action plans in areas of chronic depredation to end the need for annual lethal removal; and,
- Compliance measures where livestock operators do not implement the required non-lethal measures.
“Given the significant work that has been done to date on this topic, I strongly believe new rules and policies could, and should, be adopted and in place prior to the grazing season next year.”
Although Gov Inslee was outspoken about returning to the Paris Agreement and strong climate change action, his state has continued destroying the gray wolf population. In the current situation, it remains unclear whether the letter will be effective.
It is clear that there is a loss of natural and human-induced biodiversity, it can be said that the one from human-driven is more severe and long-lasting. Biodiversity loss may occur with natural disasters, floods, volcanic eruptions and fires. In addition, the loss of biodiversity due to human activities is also significantly devastating.
There is a review of about 15,000 scientific and government resources, compiled by 145 expert writers from 50 countries, according to an article from National Geographic. In this review, the authors discovered that human activity was the main cause of the decline of nature. Major drivers of human-induced biodiversity loss are land conversion, deforestation, overfishing, average scrub hunting and poaching, and pollution.
Natural vegetation, such as forests, grasslands, and shrubbery, has been cleared of large areas as human activity, particularly agriculture, as well as settlement and industrial development, has expanded over the past few centuries. The once large communities of plants have been reduced in size and divided into smaller pieces. The reduction and fragmentation of this habitat poses a problem as it limits the ability of many species to migrate to areas with favorable conditions. Species found on mountain tops, islands, and peninsulas will have a similar problem.
Image courtesy of Flickr. Originally published by S&S on April 21, 2021.