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Biodiversity and

climate change
ICLEI 2008
Local & Regional Authorities for Biodiversity 2010

• Global climate change and biodiversity loss are connected: when the climate
changes, particular species will disappear from their current habitat and new
species will appear.
• Conversely, biodiversity management can be an important means for helping
slow down climate change and its impacts.
• Local and regional governments can benefit in many ways from integrating
biodiversity management into climate protection and adaptation strategies.

Climate change will result in biodiversity change

Over the course of history, ing out existing species in wild flowers. Examples of the
ecosystems have always had those areas. In other cases urban impacts of such spe-
to adapt to changing cli- warming will cause species cies changes are:
matic conditions. The cur- to shift their ranges upwards
• Loss of trees in streets,
rent rate of climate change, along altitudinal gradients, gardens and parks, as
however, is higher than ever with the same effect. changing temperatures
recorded. It is now obvious add stress and reduce
Changing temperatures will
that humans have impacted their resilience to pests;
also influence their repro-
biodiversity loss - directly
ductive cycles, their growth • Loss of species and dam-
through the destruction
patterns and, also as a result age of (municipal) forests,
of habitats, and indirectly
of range shifts, the interac- reducing economic gains
through climate change. as well as recreational
tion between species. All this
Current rates of climate values;
may occur over time frames

change have already re- as short as decades. • Risk of collapsing waste
sulted in species composi- water treatment systems
tion changes. As the climate Affected species are likely to as micro-organisms are
warms up or cools down, include those to which hu- vulnerable to temperature
many local species have to mankind has attached vari- differences;
shift from their current habi- ous values (e.g. cultural em- • Damages to flora and fau-
tat to areas better suited to blems, indigenous crops, na through the immigrat-
their needs. This means that plants that typically mark the ing of (alien) species;
with rising average tempera- landscape). This will also in- • Risks to human health
tures many species will expe- clude wild plants that are lo- through the immigration
rience a range shift towards cally used, such as medici- of disease carrying insects
the poles, potentially push- nal herbs, mushrooms and such as mosquitoes.
Cities can help species adapt to climate change

Changes to local biological and action needs to include pitable landscape, many
diversity and species com- the creation of networks of species will not be able to Some changes that will
position poses tremendous protected areas. This will in- survive climatic changes as occur in ecosystems
challenges to conservation crease the ‘connectivity’ of as a result of climate
they cannot migrate to other
the landscape and enable change:
planning and implementa- areas.
tion. Common conservation species to gradually shift • Accelerated habitat
Local and regional authori-
practices need to be revised from their current habitats to loss: Small islands of
ties can restructure their
in order to accommodate the more suitable ones. habitats may not be
urban development plans
current and future challeng- able to sustain them-
Cities and towns in fact have and zoning to allow for the
es resulting from climate selves as the climate
an important function as gradual creation of biodiver- changes;
habitat corridors for flora sity corridors, for example
• Changes in range: The
If rapid and irreversible and fauna. If biodiversity can along linear infrastructure el-
geographical range
change in biodiversity is to exist only in mere ‘islands’ ements such as rivers, roads of many species will
be avoided, conservation within an otherwise inhos- and railway lines. move towards the
strategies need to focus poles or higher in
more on supporting the altitude (CBD 2003);
species’ natural capacity to
• Increased extinction
adapt to change. Beyond rates: Many spe-
a morale obligation to act, cies that are already
helping species to adapt may threatened are likely to
also avoid the loss of impor- become extinct;
tant ecosystem services and • Changes in physiol-
the cultural and economic ogy: For example
values attached to particular reproduction timings,
species. duration of growth
season for plants.
At the local and regional
level, conservation planning ICLEI 2008

Biodiversity can help protect the climate

Biodiversity also plays a cru- amount of this greenhouse Increasing the green areas more humid microclimate,
cial but often underestimat- gas, which is most responsi- in densely populated areas which is particularly relevant
ed role in the mitigation of ble for global warming. does not only contribute to in hot climates and seasons.
climate change. Mitigation global climate protection. Investing in global climate
The release of CO2 through
refers to actions that reduce Trees and other vegetation protection will quickly pay off
deforestation and land use
the extent of global warm- also help improve the local locally and improve the qual-
change accounts for as much
ing. The biological diversity air quality, provide shade ity of life in cities and towns.
as 25% of total human-in-
of ecosystems is a key factor and lead to a cooler and
duced greenhouse gas emis-
in ensuring the natural proc- sions. Maintaining local
esses undertaken by ecosys- biodiversity and increasing
tems. urban green space, in par-
One of these processes is ticular forest areas, therefore
growth. As they grow, plants, are significant and effective
fungi and soil bacteria work contributions towards pro-
together to bind carbon diox- tecting the global climate.
ide gas from the atmosphere Apart from conserving green
into the soil, wood and other areas, local and regional
organic matter. This proc- authorities can provide the
ess ‘sequesters’ carbon di- regulatory framework for en-
oxide from the atmosphere, couraging vegetation growth
thereby helping to reduce the on private properties. ICLEI 2008
Biodiversity management is vital for human adaptation to climate change
As the climate changes, ex- impact of climate-related cally simple and inexpensive to focus on technological,
treme weather events such disasters on human settle- measures can result in tre- socio-economic and eco-
as storms, floods, droughts ments depends considerably mendous benefits. While na- logical support mechanisms
and heat waves are expected on the ability of local and tional governments in many alike. Conserving healthy
to become more intense and regional authorities to effec- countries provide national ecosystems and promoting
unpredictable. tively factor climate change adaptation plans, local and the adaptive capacity of spe-
risks in infrastructure plan- regional authorities have the
Healthy ecosystems play a cies helps ensure that urban
ning and the design of mu- challenging task to gather
crucial role in mitigating the and rural environments can
nicipal services. local data on climate change
impact of climate-induced retain their ‘fitness’ and con-
disasters. For example, a bio- Biodiversity management and making responsible de- tinue to provide the ecosys-
logically diverse and healthy therefore needs to become cisions for local adaptation tem services so vital for their
forest ecosystem has a high integrated with disaster to climate change. inhabitants, despite the un-
capacity to absorb torrential risk reduction planning and
Such comprehensive ‘antici- certainties of a changing
rain. It provides tree cover emergency response. For
patory adaptation’ will need local climate.
and undergrowth that can example, local and regional
reduce the erosive impact of authorities can help reduce
intense precipitation, slow flood risks by protecting and
down the surface run-off and restoring riverine and coast-
support the seepage of rain al vegetation. This will help
water into the soil and lower regulate a more even flow of
rock beds. These processes water in a catchment, reduc-
help reduce the risk of flash ing the impacts of extreme
floods, mud slides and soil precipitation, storm surges
erosion. Conserving a patch or coastal wave action. In
of native vegetation may vegetated areas, the rate
therefore be a key compo- of water seepage into the
nent of integrated disaster ground is also higher, which
risk reduction in the face of reduces the impacts of
climate change. droughts.
Local and regional authori- All these measures will sup-
ties will be called upon to port local economic and
take action to effectively use infrastructure systems to
their regulatory capacity to adapt to a changing climate.
help infrastructure systems If carefully planned based on
and people adapt to a chang- local indicators for climate
ing climate. The destructive change, even technologi- ICLEI 2008

Biodiversity management measures and their contribution to climate change adaptation

Biodiversity management Contribution to climate change

Outcomes for cities and regions
measures adaptation

• Healthy ecosystems can help

• Active protection and manage- • Maintaining critical ecosystem reducing the impacts of extreme
ment of existing habitats functions and aesthetic value; weather events
• Increasing the size of exist- increasing human well-being • Increased overall ability of ecosys-
ing habitats and creating new • Increasing the chances for sur- tems to adapt; providing physical
habitats vival of threatened species adaptation factors such as inner-
• Increasing the connectivity of • Maintaining the existing compo- city shade
habitats by creating ecological sition of ecosystems and ena- • Slowing down extinction rates of
networks and connecting wild- bling their survival ecologically, culturally, economi-
life territories cally significant species
Facts & figures
Cities and regions: Biodiversity management for mitigation and adaptation • The rate of climate
change is projected to be
Local and regional authori- (such as the Cities for green space in urban ar- faster than in the previ-
ties are key players in coor- Climate Protection eas to cool local tempera- ous 10 000 years.
dinating and implementing Campaign) that effectively tures down during the hot • Higher latitude and
biodiversity management reduce greenhouse gas season and create more coastal ecosystems are
measures that take climate emissions, for example most likely to experience
liveable microclimates;
change into account. through an extension of the most severe effects
• Protect and restore river- from climate change.
public transport, energy
For helping species to adapt ine or coastal vegetation • Although the increased
efficiency measures and
to climate change, they can: for reducing the risks of CO2 concentration
the tapping of renewable
• Adapt zoning and urban energy sources; flooding as a result of is beneficial to many
extreme weather events; plants, its net effect on
development plans to in-
• Invest in the planting of ecosystem productivity
crease the connectivity of • Rehabilitate and diversify
trees to increase carbon can be negative in some
habitats to enable species
sequestration; municipal forests and wet parts of the world.
to migrate more easily;
• Provide incentives for lands to help regulate a
• Protect biologically more evenly distributed
private and corporate
diverse habitats and plan flow in watersheds.
stakeholders to invest Urban biodiversity...
for an expansion of pro-
in renewable energy and
tected areas to increase These are only a few exam- is biological diversity of
energy efficiency.
the probability for spe- ples of local and regional urban areas. It is heavily
cies’ local survival despite Lastly, as climate change can influenced by the built envi-
action for integrated biodi-
climate change; no longer be avoided, local ronment and the economic,
versity management that
and regional authorities need social and cultural dynamics
For protecting the climate should help inspire creative
to regulate and plan for the of these densely populated
and mitigate further climate planning and management
adaptation of human activity places.
change, local and regional processes suited for tack-
to a changing climate.
authorities can: ling the local and regional
• Participate in climate This can include: specific impacts of climate
protection programs • Increasing tree cover and change.

Countdown 2010 Secretariat

ICLEI 2008
IUCN Regional Office for
Boulevard Louis Schmidt 64
1040 Brussels, Belgium
This document is part of a series of factsheets that are intended to provide guidance and in- Tel: +32 2 739 03 20
formation on biodiversity management to decision-makers at the local and regional level. For Fax: +32 2 732 94 99
more detailed information on how local and regional authorities have contributed to stopping
biodiversity loss, please visit our web site or contact us directly. lara
All factsheets can be downloaded from
European Centre for Nature
ICLEI - Local Governments
for Sustainability
Local Action for Biodiversity

This factsheet was compiled in 2008

Supported by the Ministry by ICLEI with the support of Count-
of Agriculture, Nature and down 2010, ECNC and LAB.
Food Quality, The Nether-