Connecting Biodiversity and Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation

The Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group (AHTEG) on Biodiversity and Climate Change was established under the Convention of Biological Diversity to inform and update the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change on biodiversity-related information. This report of the second AHTEG provides scientific and technical assessments and advice on integrating biodiversity conservation and sustainable use of natural resources into climate change mitigation and adaptation activities. The report emphasizes that, through the ecosystem services it supports, biodiversity offers an important contribution to climate change resilience. Additionally, the conservation of biodiversity provides many co-benefits, including to the resilience of various sectors.

The report is organized into four sections: Climate Change Impacts on Biodiversity, Biodiversity and Adaptation, Biodiversity and Mitigation, and Values and Incentives. Case studies are provided throughout to illustrate good practices and lessons learned and tools and methodologies are described to offer concrete scientific and technical advice.

The first part of the report looks at the observed and projected impacts of climate change on biodiversity, finding that many organisms and ecosystems were already impacted by climate change and further change will exacerbate impacts. This section provides a summary of the variety of tools and methodologies used for analyzing vulnerability to climate change at different scales from genetic to ecosystem levels (Table 1.1). The report notes that climate change induced or exaggerated habitat loss and fragmentation will be “particularly severe for species with limited dispersal abilities, slower life history traits, and range restricted species such as polar and alpine species, and species restricted to riverine and freshwater habitats.” Negative impacts on biodiversity come with significant ecological, economic, and social costs, especially via alterations in the goods and services it provides (such as in fisheries, timber production, and agriculture). Degradation of such ecosystem services and biodiversity loss disproportionately impact indigenous peoples and the poor and may result in increased human conflict. 

Section 2 examines three main interactions between biodiversity and adaptation: reducing the impacts of climate change on biodiversity, impacts of adaptation activities on biodiversity, and using biodiversity and ecosystem services to adapt to climate change. Specific adaptation recommendations in this section include, among many others:

  • Promote the conservation of intact and functioning ecosystems wherever possible. This can be accomplished through: 
    • Reducing other stresses on species and ecosystems, including from habitat loss and fragmentation, invasive alien species, pollution, and overharvesting.
    • Examining models to determine areas with future climatic suitability for ecosystems, and treat these areas as potential priorities for conservation.
  • Fragmented or degraded ecosystems should be restored or rehabilitated, and critical processes [such as habitat connectivity, hydrological flows, fire regimes, and pollination dynamics] should be reestablished, to maintain ecosystem services.
  • Apply agro-ecological approaches aimed at conserving soil moisture and nutrients, applying integrated pest management and diversifying crops and farming systems through the application of multi-cropping or mixed farming systems.
  • Implement ecosystem-based adaptation such as: Sustainable water management where river basins, aquifers, flood plains and their associated vegetation provide water storage and flood regulation.
  • Implement disaster-risk reduction where restoration of coastal habitats such as mangroves can be a particularly effective measure against storm-surges and coastal erosion. Mangrove conservation, like many ecosystem-based adaptations, also provides additional co-benefits like contributing to food security and income generation via mangrove-related products.

Multiple benefits of an ecosystem-based adaptation approach are identified, including that it can be widely applicable to various spatial, temporal, and project or programmatic scales; and can be more cost-effective and accessible to rural or poor communities. With prior and informed consent of knowledge holders, an ecosystem-based adaptation approach can also integrate and help maintain traditional knowledge and cultural values.

Section 3 examines the links between biodiversity and mitigation, looking at the role of ecosystems in carbon storage and sequestration and focusing in on land use management, including reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD).  

The report concludes with information on techniques for valuing biodiversity and incentives to improve decision making around mitigation and adaptation activities. Table 4.2 provides a list of financial and non-financial incentives and instruments to encourage ecosystem-based adaptations, such as:

  • payment for ecosystem services; 
  • elimination of subsidies that degrade ecosystems; and 
  • development, refinement, and enforcement of legislation that promotes sustainable use or discourages mismanagement.


Publication Date: 2009

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  • Assessment
  • Policy analysis/recommendations

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