How is global warming reducing biodiversity



08.12.2020 12:08

Climate change is worsening biodiversity loss

Monika Landgraf Strategic development and communication - overall communication
Karlsruher Institute for Technology

Achieving existing and proposed biodiversity targets after 2020 is massively jeopardized by climate change - even if other obstacles are removed. As a study published in the journal PNAS shows, global warming is accelerating the decline in biodiversity. Conversely, measures to protect biodiversity can also help to mitigate the consequences of climate change. According to the authors, headed by ecosystem researcher Almut Arneth from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), flexible methods in nature conservation would make it possible to react dynamically to the consequences of climate change for habitats and species.

The achievement of a large number of existing biodiversity targets after 2020 proposed by international organizations is massively endangered by climate change - even if other obstacles, such as the exploitation of habitats, are removed. This is the result of the authors of an analysis led by the ecosystem researcher Almut Arneth from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). As the study now published in the journal PNAS shows, global warming is accelerating the decline in biological diversity. Conversely, measures to protect biodiversity can also help to mitigate the consequences of climate change. Flexible methods in nature conservation would make it possible to react dynamically to the consequences of climate change for habitats and species. (DOI: 2009584117)

Around one million plant and animal species are threatened with extinction worldwide. However, at least 13 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations depend on biodiversity, which in addition to species diversity also includes genetic diversity within species and the diversity of ecosystems. Because biodiversity regulates fundamental processes such as soil formation, water, trace gas and nutrient cycles, and is also important for climate regulation. Their continuous decline poses great ecological, social and economic problems for mankind. "In addition to the exploitation of natural resources such as land and water as well as environmental pollution, climate change also leads to the loss of biological diversity and will have an even greater impact in this regard in the future," explains Almut Arneth, Professor at the Institute for Meteorology and Climate Research - Atmospheric Environmental Research (IMK-IFU ), the KIT Campus Alpin in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. She led an international study that has now been published under the title "Post-2020 biodiversity targets need to embrace climate change" in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS).

Goals for global biodiversity protection missed

In the study, scientists from Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Russia, South Africa, Mexico and Japan analyze the so-called Aichi goals for global biodiversity protection, which were adopted at the 10th Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in 2010 in Nagoya, Prefecture, Japan Aichi, and should be achieved by 2020. Most of these goals are missed. The researchers are also concerned with the revised biodiversity protection goals currently being negotiated by the participating states for the period after 2020, which are then to be achieved by 2030 or 2050. They state that many of the existing as well as the proposed targets are seriously endangered by global warming - even if it remains at the lower limit of the prognoses. "It is certainly a great challenge, but also an important opportunity to better deal politically with the interactions between climate change and biodiversity decline and to coordinate the biodiversity goals more closely with the Paris Agreement on climate protection and the goals for sustainable development," explains Arneth. The proposed biodiversity targets should therefore take climate change into much greater account in their formulation.

Species migrate from nature reserves

The scientist gives an example: A biodiversity protection goal that relates to nature reserves must take into account that the composition and growth of vegetation change with climate change and that certain plant and animal species migrate from a nature reserve or are threatened if the climatic conditions change . Climate change is causing mountain glaciers, for example, to shrink. In semi-arid regions, however, ecosystems in lower valleys are dependent on the summer meltwater from the glaciers. If this regular meltwater flow is also reduced due to the glacier retreat, the rainfall alone may not be sufficient to supply the plants in the catchment area with water. This then also applies to the animals that are dependent on the plants.

The study underscores the demand to reduce man-made greenhouse gas emissions quickly and significantly and to stop climate change. Conversely, it also shows that measures to protect biological diversity can also contribute to climate protection. "A better coordination of political agreements and scientific knowledge can both accelerate the urgent decarbonisation of the economy and ensure that climate change is slowed down by measures to protect biodiversity," summarizes Arneth.

Original publication:
Almut Arneth, Yunne-Jai Shin, Paul Leadley, Carlo Rondinini, Elena Bukvareva, Melanie Kolb, Guy F. Midgley, Thierry Oberdorff, Ignacio Palomo, Osamu Saito: Post-2020 biodiversity targets need to embrace climate change. PNAS, 2020. DOI: 2009584117

Abstract below
https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2020/12/01/2009584117

Details on the KIT Climate and Environment Center: http://www.klima-umwelt.kit.edu

Further contact:

Sandra Wiebe, press officer, phone: +49 721 608-41172, email: [email protected]

As “The Research University in the Helmholtz Association”, KIT creates and imparts knowledge for society and the environment. The aim is to make significant contributions to global challenges in the fields of energy, mobility and information. To this end, around 9,300 employees work together on a broad disciplinary basis in the natural, engineering, economics, humanities and social sciences. The KIT prepares its 24,400 students for responsible tasks in society, economy and science through a research-oriented university course. The innovation activity at KIT bridges the gap between knowledge and application for social benefit, economic prosperity and the preservation of our natural foundations of life. KIT is one of the German universities of excellence.

This press release is available on the Internet at: https://www.kit.edu/kit/presseinformationen.php


Original publication:

https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2020/12/01/2009584117


Features of this press release:
Journalists
Biology, sea / climate, animals / land / forest, environment / ecology
supraregional
Research results, scientific publications
German