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How to Protect Species and Save the Planet — at once

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Humanity is in struggle to contain two compositional crises: global temperature in fury and biodiversity in precipitation. But people tend to tackle every problem on their own, for example by spreading green energy and coal-eating machines, While tightening ecosystems to preserve them. But in a new report, 50 scientists around the world argue that treating each crisis in isolation means losing solutions to two irons that solve both. Humanity cannot solve one without even solving the other.

The report is the product of a four-day virtual workshop in which researchers from all walks of life participate, and is a collaboration between the United Nations Intergovernmental Platform on Science-Policy for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In the light of the Paris Agreement, is intended to provide guidance on how campaigns dealing with biodiversity can also address climate change, and vice versa.

The clear-cut relationship should be very influential not only between government decision-makers and conservation groups, but also corporations, says Betsy Beymer-Farris, a sustainability scientist at the University of Kentucky, who was not involved in the report. but he did his peer review of it. “It’s hard for companies or even nation states to really distill academic literature,” says Beymer-Farris. The report establishes both climate and biodiversity science and the social science of how to effect change with the help of people who rely effectively on the land for agriculture and pastoralism. “I was definitely excited when I reviewed the report,” adds Beymer-Farris. “I thought, okay, this is definitely different from what I’ve seen before, because it’s a conscious and serious commitment with a more equitable and just way forward.”

So how could these campaigns be? Say, for example, that you transform a heavily exploited forest into a national park. When the trees grow back, they will sequester the carbon in their tissues and provide a habitat for the animals ’return. Leaving a forest back naturally, rather than planting a single tree species to offset the carbon emissions of certain companies, making it more resilient. This is known as a nature-based solution, a campaign that simultaneously sequesters carbon and gives an additional ecological or economic benefit.

“It helps biodiversity, and it can actually generate opportunities for people to use this system in a sustainable way,” says climatologist Hans-Otto Pörtner of the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany. Pörtner co-chaired the scientific steering committee for the workshop that produced the report. But, he continues, if you create a monoculture, “there is only one use. And then if this culture that you use here is hit by some catastrophe, you lose all that purpose. ”

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A monoculture is less resistant to the devastation of a single disaster – such as a forest fire – or to the slower and more constant stress of climate change. “When trees are stressed and weak, they tend to be quite vulnerable to, say, insect attacks and other types of disease,” says report co-author Almuth Arneth, a modeling expert at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany. . And if that species is almost alone, and it is stressed and dies, now the whole new forest is gone.

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Biodiversity is a kind of insurance policy against this. A naturally growing forest includes a greater variety of species, and the chances are better that some of them will weather a catastrophe once, or endure ongoing stress factors such as higher temperatures and more intense drought. Resilience is integrated into the ecosystem, so it works for thousands or even millions of years. Its higher probability of survival also means that it has a better chance of keeping all its carbon sequestered, keeping it out of the atmosphere and preventing further global warming.

Stopping humanity’s attacks on ecosystems can also help fight climate change, the study’s authors write. Drainage of wetlands for agriculture kills species and interrupts an important process to sequester carbon. Slash-and-burn agriculture in the tropics ignites concentrated groundwater known as peat, which frees staggering amounts of greenhouse gases. (Yes, turbulence is not alone an arctic thing.) The protection of coastal mangrove forests comes with a particularly long list of common benefits, the report points out: they sequester four times the amount of carbon per area like a rainforest, live in a wide range of species, and act as a barrier that absorbs storm energy.


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