Dec 8, 2011, 12:19 PM
Hello and a warm welcome to yet another edition of Environment, your weekly column aimed at bringing environmental issues into the limelight.
In today’s edition we speak to Mr Kawsu Jammeh, Environment Education Officer, Department of Parks and Wildlife Management, and to look at the relationship between biodiversity and livelihood and the way forward.
According to him, climate change is likely to have great impacts on biodiversity, from ecosystem to species level.
“The most obvious impact is the effect that flooding, sea-level rise and temperature changes will have on ecosystem boundaries, allowing some ecosystems to expand into new areas, while others diminish in size such as mangrove of Tanbi Wetlands Complex.
As floods, sea-level rise and changes in climate alter protected areas, some of these areas may cease to provide suitable habitats for species they were designed to conserve.
Protected areas cover a large area with a range of representativeness such as elevations, latitudes, micro climates, ecosystems and almost all types of landscape and watershed.”
He said: “Species can therefore migrate to another safe habitat if climate change adversely affects their present one, as well as shifting ecosystem boundaries. Changes in climate will also cause changes in natural habitat, an outcome which will have a knock-on effect on species survival.”
Global warming is also causing shifts in the reproductive cycles and growing seasons of certain species and higher temperature in Baddibu killed birds.”
He added that the impacts of climate change on biodiversity will vary from region to region. The most rapid changes in climate are expected in the polar extremities and in mountainous regions; where species often have no alternative habitats to which they can migrate in order to survive.
Other vulnerable ecosystems and species include small populations or those whose habitat is restricted to small areas, he added.
Biodiversity as a tool for mitigation
Effective biodiversity conservation and management can lead to higher levels of carbon sequestration and hence contribute to climate change mitigation.
For example, forest management activities such as increasing rotation age, low intensity harvesting, reduced impact logging, leaving woody debris, harvesting that emulates natural disturbance regimes, avoiding fragmentation, provision of buffer zones and natural fire regimes can simultaneously provide biodiversity and climate benefits.
“For certain agro-forestry, revegetation, grassland management, best agricultural practices, recycling, use of organic materials and integrated watershed management strategies can conserve watershed biodiversity in addition to increasing water retention and availability in times of drought, decreasing the chance of flash floods and maintaining vegetation as a carbon sink,” he stated.
He adduced that energy production is another key area where biodiversity conservation provides opportunities to help mitigate climate change.
Currently, he said, some 60% of anthropogenic global greenhouse gas emissions originate from the generation and use of energy; thus use of renewable energy sources provides an opportunity to reduce emissions from burning fossil fuels.
Biodiversity, climate change and livelihoods
The traditional approaches to poverty translate poverty simply as an economic condition and such approaches have been replaced by those that recognize poverty as more complex, and include factors such as lack of education and skills, poor health and inadequate protection of poorer groups’ rights, among other, he continued.
To him, regarding food some species are used on a daily basis, while others are important in times of famine or stress. Poor people are therefore severely affected when the environment is degraded or their access to it is restricted. “This link between poverty and the environment has been recognised for some time, as a result of this dependency, any impact that climate change has unnatural systems threatens the livelihoods, food intake and health of poor, he said.
Climate change will mean that many semi-arid parts of the developing world will become even hotter and drier, with eventless predictable rainfall.
Climate induced changes to crop yields, ecosystem boundaries and species’ ranges will dramatically affect many poor people’s livelihoods. Those most vulnerable to climate change are the poorest groups in the poorest countries of the world.
This is because they live in areas more prone to flooding, cyclones, droughts and so on, and because they have little capacity to adapt to such shocks.
They are often heavily dependent on climate-sensitive sectors such as fisheries and agriculture, and the countries they live in have limited financial, institutional and human capacity to anticipate and respond to the direct and indirect impacts of climate change.
Conservation of biodiversity and maintenance of ecosystem integrity may be a key objective for improving the adaptive capacity of such groups to cope with climate change.
Functionally diverse systems may be better able to adapt to climate change and climate variability than functionally impoverished systems.
A larger gene pool will facilitate the emergence of genotypes which are better adapted to change climatic conditions.”
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