Posts Tagged: biodiversity
Around the world, countries have established protected areas as the primary defense to reduce widespread biodiversity loss and guard vulnerable habitats. However, species and ecosystems are adapted to particular climates—as those climates shift across and outside of protected area boundaries, species may track them into unprotected landscapes where human land uses degrade conservation potential.
In a new study published in Science Advances today, Berkeley researchers offer a broad analysis of how protected areas will continue to capture the climates suitable for species into the future. The study was led by Paul Elsen, a climate adaptation scientist at the Wildlife Conservation Society and former postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, and it was co-authored with Cooperative Extension specialist Adina Merenlender, recent Ph.D. graduate Eric Dougherty, and Bill Monahan, currently with the U.S. Forest Service.
The authors first determined how climate is expected to change within all terrestrial protected areas globally by utilizing data from several major global climate models and maps of protected areas. They found that over the next 50 to 80 years, the total amount of protected land situated in both warm and cold climates, over a wide range of annual precipitations, is expected to decline significantly.
“We calculate that most countries will fail to protect over 90% of their available climate at current levels, forcing many species to shift into unprotected lands,” says Merenlender.
Species or ecosystems adapted to specific climatic conditions would disproportionately be impacted, such as those in tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests, boreal forests, tundra, savannas, grasslands and shrublands.
The authors then tested how different mitigation and adaptation strategies might work to limit the amount of change species may experience in protected areas within countries, thereby reducing species' vulnerability. For example, they investigated whether greenhouse gas mitigation or the addition of new protected areas were more effective for building resilience to climate change.
“Protected areas are invaluable to conserving biodiversity, but where those protected areas are positioned in relation to available climates can have a huge influence on their ability to reduce species' vulnerability to climate change,” says Elsen.
If countries were to expand protected areas to double the diversity of climates under protection, the authors find, they would retain 118% more land area of today's protected climates into the future. By contrast, reducing greenhouse gas emissions in accordance with global targets would increase retention of currently protected climates by 102%.
“If we adopt a strategy for increasing protection that seeks to maximize the diversity of climate types represented within protected areas—for example, cold, warm, hot, wet, temperate, arid, etc.—we stand a much better chance that protected areas will continue to encompass the climatic conditions that support currently protected biodiversity,” says Elsen, lead author of the study.
The authors were surprised to find that simply establishing more protected areas wasn't the solution to building resilience. “Whether it's ‘half-earth' or a more modest target, we need more protected areas but they must be climate smart,” says Merenlender. “This means protecting a full range of climate types, or parks will not protect biodiversity as intended into the future.”
The long-term conservation potential of protected areas depends on careful maintenance of appropriate biotic and abiotic conditions that promote biodiversity. The authors stress that decisions about land use, which are socio-economic in nature, need to also account for conservation and ecosystem health. “Species that track climate into unprotected landscapes may face landscapes that are highly modified by agriculture, infrastructure, development, and other human activities, so it is still critical that we work to increase the suitability of unprotected lands for biodiversity, too,” says Elsen.
The study includes recommendations for planning for future reserves that stand to better protect biodiversity and will be more resilient to climate change over the long term.
Read the study on the Science Advances website.
From the 13,400 monarch butterflies currently overwintering in Pacific Grove’s Monterey pine trees, to the salmon migrating upstream from the ocean to their natal river in our watersheds, to the western fence lizard doing pushups on your concrete curb, we are always surrounded by nature in this state. California is one of the most biologically diverse places on Earth, providing a home for over 30,000 species of insects, 63 freshwater fish, 46 amphibians, 96 reptiles, 563 birds, 190 mammals and more than 8,000 plants!
E.O. Wilson, conservation biologist, sociobiologist, and the world’s leading authority on ants says that “Nature holds the key to our aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive and even spiritual satisfaction.” My hope for Green Blog readers this Thanksgiving week is that you can find some time to spend a few uninhibited, unstructured minutes in nature. Let your gratitude brim for whatever curiosities and satisfactions its discoveries may fulfill in you!
Have you heard of the UC ANR California Naturalist Program? This new UC ANR program fosters a diverse community of naturalists and promotes stewardship of California's natural resources through education and service. Designed to introduce Californians to the wonders of our unique ecology and engage volunteers in stewardship and study of California’s natural communities, California Naturalist provides hands-on instruction and exposure to real world environmental projects designed to inspire adults to become active citizen scientists and enhance their personal connection with the natural world.
The California Naturalist Program encourages Californians to help protect and preserve our unique and diverse wildlife, habitats, rivers, lakes and coastal resources, wild and urban alike. Currently, the program certifies naturalists through 10 partnering institutions statewide, and continuing education units/college credit are available. Becoming a California Naturalist is a commitment to life-long learning. Advanced training opportunities for naturalists are continually offered by California Naturalist partners and the University of California. The program is in the planning stages for a first bi-annual statewide conference in 2014.
California Naturalist’s newest course offerings include two summer 2013 in-residency intensive courses at Nevada County’s UC Berkeley Sagehen Creek Field Station (July 8 - 14, 2013) and Sonoma County’s Occidental Arts & Ecology Center (August 15 - 22, 2013). These residential summer courses provide a chance to immerse yourself in the wonders of California’s unique ecology. Through a combination of science curriculum, guest lecturers, field trips and project based learning, participants will advance their ability to observe and understand nature. Great for teachers, docents, environmental professionals, and everyone interested in natural history.
California Naturalists in-training participate in NestWatch, a nationwide monitoring program designed to track status and trends in the reproductive biology of birds.
Adapted from an article by Eileen Ecklund in Breakthroughs magazine.
But a group of UC Berkeley scientists say that continuing on our current path of industrial agriculture is simply not sustainable, given its enormous water, energy and chemical inputs, together with the new challenges posed by climate change, such as temperature and precipitation extremes.
With the launch of the interdisciplinary Berkeley Center Diversified Farming Systems late last year, UC Berkeley scientists are coalescing around a set of biodiversity-promoting farming practices they say are a promising solution.
Claire Kremen, a conservation biologist and associate professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, says that most or even all of the inputs that modern commercial farms require — chemical pesticides and fertilizers, wasteful amounts of water and energy, imported pollinators — were needed only because the monoculture-dominated landscapes created by industrial agriculture lacked biodiversity.
"From studying the pollinators, I realized that the way we conduct agriculture has basically required us to replace all of the ecosystem services that used to be in the agricultural ecosystem with substitutes," said Kremen, a 2007 MacArthur Fellow.
Generally speaking, a diversified farming system is one that promotes biodiversity across spatial scales, from plot to field to landscape. Crops are planted and livestock raised in combination, resulting in interactions that sponsor the functioning of the farming systems in ways that replenish natural ecosystems. Methods employed within a diversified farm may include minimal soil tillage, growing multiple crops together, planting cover crops, and interspersing trees and shrubs with crops and livestock.
These practices also provide pollination, pest and disease control, water purification, and erosion control. They help to build healthy, productive soil and reduce water use, as demonstrated by research conducted by Kremen and her Berkeley colleague Miguel Altieri in their respective labs and on farms in Napa, Sonoma, and Yolo counties.
But diversified farming systems aren't just about providing food and protecting the environment; to be truly sustainable, they must also provide a livelihood to farmers and farm laborers, and help support the communities that depend on them. UC Berkeley-based Cooperative Extension specialist Christy Getz has studied farm labor conditions and food security among agricultural workers. In one project, her team developed a program to help Southeast Asian refugee farmers in California scale up their operations, connect to alternative distribution systems, and access new markets for their produce, such as local schools.
Professor Alistair Isles focuses on the public policy, science policy, and sociological dimensions of making a switch back to diversified systems from industrial agriculture in developed countries. For example, he has studied the importance of innovative consumer tools that promote sustainable agriculture such issues as "food miles"—the distance that food travels from farm to table—and sustainable seafood evaluation methods.
If farmers could bring back many of the traditional practices that supported biodiversity, enhanced by the application of modern ecological science, Kremen believes that the world could produce more food while reducing agriculture's harmful effects, making it more sustainable over the long term.
And unlike organic agriculture, diversified farming systems are not an all-or-nothing approach; Kremen says farmers can implements all the systems the Berkeley center recommends based on its research, or simply implement selected techniques, such as planting native-plant hedgerows or using soil-enriching cover crops, and still make their farms more sustainable.
"Biodiversity is critical to future health of California’s ecology and economy," an article by UC Ag and Natural Resources associate vice president Barbara Allen-Diaz and published in California Agriculture journal, provides important information for all Californians. It is vital that we have a clear understanding of these issues in order to make wise decisions now and in the future.
The “web of life” is a delicate interconnectedness of all organisms and environments on earth. We are a part of this intricate web and have a responsibility to take the best possible care of our planet. This can be best accomplished by learning more about the ecosystems around us.
Did you know that:
- Biodiversity is directly linked to our quality of life?
- That 3 of the 5 “hot spots” for unique diversity loss nationwide are located in California?
- Biodiversity within our ecosystems provide such services as pollination, nutrient cycling and cleansing of air and water?
Over 4,800 native plant species live in California. Due to the geologic, topographic and climatic diversity of our state, biodiversity of plant life in our state far exceeds that of any other state, including Hawaii.