Climate Change Tempered By Protected Areas For Biodiversity

DN Bureau

terrestrial protected areas serve as climate change refugia for biodiversity by offering not only habitat but also a thermal buffer against the effects of climate change. Read on for details

Representative Image
Representative Image

Beijing: According to the most recent Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, climate change is now recognised as the greatest danger to biodiversity. As temperatures rise beyond what plants and animals can tolerate due to climate change, they are more in danger of experiencing thermal stress.

According to a recent study, which was published in Science Advances, terrestrial protected areas serve as climate change refugia for biodiversity by offering not only habitat but also a thermal buffer against the effects of climate change.

Researchers from Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology in China, the UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Center Europe (UNEP-WCMC Europe), the Forest & Nature Lab at Ghent University in Belgium, and the Institute of Atmospheric Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences led this study.

The study shows that protected areas of natural and seminatural vegetation successfully lower the land surface temperature compared to nonprotected areas that are frequently disturbed or changed to other land uses. They specifically lower seasonal and diurnal temperature variations in boreal and temperate regions, as well as the local daily maximum temperature in the tropics.
"The cooling effect of protected areas on daily and seasonal maximum temperatures is particularly important because it can protect species in the wild from episodes of extreme heat," said Dr JIA Gensuo, corresponding author of the study. "Under a warming climate, as heatwaves are becoming more frequent and more intense, protected areas create thermal refugia."

The biodiversity responses to climate change, according to Dr Pieter De Frenne, one of the authors and an expert on the microclimatic buffering of macroclimate warming in forests, are largely influenced by microclimate, or the local set of atmospheric conditions close to the ground, which is modulated by local habitats and landscape features.

He said, "Protected areas offer shady habitats that can lessen biotic reactions to macroclimate warming."
In order to reduce carbon emissions from changing land uses and to improve carbon sequestration from the atmosphere, nature conservation is increasingly regarded as a nature-based approach that contributes to meeting global climate targets. This study demonstrates the importance of preserving nature in maintaining regional climates. With a warming rate in protected boreal forests that is up to 20 per cent lower than the surroundings, protected forests effectively limit the rate of global warming.

"The slowed rate of warming is particularly important for species in the boreal regions because the northern high latitudes have warmed faster than the rest of the world," said lead author Dr XU Xiyan. "Protected areas provide a home for threatened species, and the home is air-conditioned naturally!"

"Protected areas have long played a key role in the conservation of nature. However, climate change can affect the ability of protected areas to achieve their conservation objectives. The demonstration that protected areas can significantly contribute to climate mitigation and adaptation highlights the need to tackle the biodiversity and climate crises simultaneously," said Dr Elise Belle, who has worked for UNEP-WCMC for almost a decade and is a co-author of this study. (ANI)

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