Climate-smart solutions are the next paradigm shift

Climate-change is a reality, and conservation efforts must adapt to deal with it.

In 2003, Parmeson and Yohe alarmed conservationists around the world, stating, with strong evidences, that climate change was already affecting ecosystems across the globe. But this change has turned out to be faster than originally expected. Lara Hansen and colleagues insist that conservation efforts must adapt to deal with this new reality, fully integrating the effects of climate change into all conservation projects.
They devised four basic tenets for climate-smart conservation design:

  1. Identifying adequate and appropriate space, by considering the past, present and future effects of climate change. The underlying objective is to support processes, places and features that minimise/mitigate climate change.
  2. Reduce non-climate stress (e.g., habitat degradation and destruction, overharvest, pollution, invasive species) by recalibrating acceptable or manageable levels. Since these stressors act synergistically with climate change.
  3. Adopt adaptive management which runs on a cycle of implementation, monitoring, evaluation and adjustments, where implementation and testing must occur simultaneously.
  4. Reduce the rate and extent of climate change by invoking the precautionary principle and taking corrective action.

The above proposed guidelines were applied and their feasibility was studied on coral reefs in the Florida Keys; mangrove forests in Fiji, Tanzania, and Cameroon; sea-level rise and sea turtles in the Caribbean; tigers in the Sundar- bans of India; and national planning in Madagascar. Through implementation of these tenets, conservation efforts can be made more robust in the face of climate change. Although these approaches require reconsidering some traditional approaches to conservation, this new paradigm is technologically, economically, and intellectually feasible.

Further reading
Hansen L, Hoffman J, Drews C & Mielbrecht E. 2009. Designing climate- smart conservation: guidance and case studies. Conservation Biology 24(1):63-69.

This article is from issue


2010 Sep