Governments should embrace the realities of biodiversity shifts rather than “investing in futile efforts to return the natural world to its historical state,” argues a new study.
In a paper published ahead of the United Nations conference, COP 15, the researchers propose a new approach to conservation, moving from current efforts to focus on resistance to change to efforts , to ensure that nature and people benefit in the future in the face of inevitable biodiversity shifts. The work will be published in the journal Ecological solutions and evidence.
At COP15, taking place December 7-19, 2022 in Montreal, Canada, governments from around the world will gather to agree on a set of new goals that will guide global action to halt and reverse nature loss should serve.
The paper’s lead author, Professor Chris Thomas from the Department of Biology and Leverhulme Center for Anthropocene Biodiversity at the University of York, said: “The approach we outline in our paper accepts that we cannot give back the natural world as we have Humans already live in almost every habitat on earth and have altered even the most remote ecosystems through human-caused extinctions of megafauna, altered chemistry of the atmosphere and oceans, and anthropogenic climate change.
“We continue to live in an ever-changing world, but change doesn’t always mean things are getting worse. Our paper provides a framework for deciding which changes in biodiversity we should accept and which we should resist will want to fight to conserve species in their current habitats and at other times when we must accept the loss of species, while facilitating their arrival in new territories that better suit their needs.
The example of the Pyrenean Desman
The report’s authors cite the example of the Pyrenean desman, a small insectivorous mammal restricted to streams in the Pyrenees and adjacent areas where it is threatened by climate change. There is only so much that can be done to conserve such a species where it currently lives as rainfall patterns and river courses change.
Establishing populations in streams in western Britain could be feasible, both increasing the number of mammal species inhabiting the UK and acting as insurance against possible global extinctions of the species, say the researchers.
Professor Thomas added: “Rather than wasting resources desperately trying to hold on to all our native species, given the inevitable climate change we should accept that some will disappear from Britain. In turn, we can facilitate the arrival of species from the UK south, which will increasingly come to the UK to escape rising temperatures and summer droughts.”
Protecting 30% of the terrestrial and marine environment by 2030 is one of the key targets to which nations are being asked to commit at COP15. It will then be up to individual nation states to deliver on their promises, but researchers argue a different, more coordinated approach is needed to address the biodiversity crisis.
Paper co-author, Dr. Jack Hatfield, from the Department of Biology and Leverhulme Center for Anthropocene Biodiversity at the University of York, said: “In its current structure, the COP15 targets are national, but the world needs to adopt a more global perspective. We argue that the focus should be on maintaining global levels of biodiversity, rather than fixating on each country keeping all of its native species. Species composition will change and it is time to accept this inevitability.
“We need to take a broader look at where and how best to invest limited resources, time and effort, as many current conservation programs may be useless given the changes we are likely to see in the future.”
According to the researchers, efforts should also be made to prioritize the world’s most important biodiversity. There are some countries like Brazil, South Africa and Madagascar that have much more to protect and the international community should join forces to ensure the survival of the world’s biodiversity hotspots.
Bold new ideas
dr Hatfield added: “At the national level, focusing funds and resources abroad can generate a lot of debate and controversy, and we are currently seeing this in the climate change mitigation negotiations at COP27. However, the focus of conservation funding on the regions of the world where it is most needed has long been practiced by many international organizations.
“There is also concern that environmental issues could be on the agenda as people struggle, and the cost of living and energy crises could prompt policymakers to look for short-term solutions rather than thinking about how the world protects people and the planet.” can be long term.
“At COP15, we need bold new thinking and an unprecedented level of commitment from world leaders to develop positive directions for change for biodiversity while reducing inequalities and improving living standards for people around the world. ”
Chris D. Thomas et al., FURIOUS Conservation, Ecological solutions and evidence (2022). DOI: 10.1002/2688-8319.12188
Provided by the University of York
Citation: Nations must embrace change to tackle biodiversity crisis, researchers say (2022 November 29) Retrieved November 29, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-11-nations-embrace-tackle-biodiversity -crisis.html
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