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In the Páramos region of Colombia, the watershed which supports 23 million people is threatened by agricultural expansion and other factors that will be exacerbated by climate change. CI is working with the national government and local organizations to link Chingaza and Sumapaz national parks, which will improve the watershed's natural purification system and reduce Bogotá's annual water treatment costs by $4 million.
LEARN MORE: Find out about the work CI has done in Colombia.
During a recent vulnerability assessment in the Galápagos Islands, scientists from CI and partner organizations revealed that climate change may reduce upwelling currents which bring cold, nutrient-rich waters to the ocean's surface – a development which would have devastating effects on wildlife populations and the local tourist economy. Among the scientists' recommendations: rezoning the park to protect upwelling currents and other especially vulnerable areas and strengthening eradication efforts for invasive species that will likely be favored by new climate conditions.
FEATURE: The Galápagos: A Laboratory for Studying Climate Change
Although each field project is site-specific and locally managed, many benefits are similar across ecosystems and communities.
More abundant forests will retain moisture, regulate water flow and absorb carbon, all of which will help buffer against climate change effects like rainfall decrease. A more resilient forest ecosystem will also help sustain species which are valuable to humans for food, medicinal and cultural purposes. Healthier coastal habitats will buffer coastal communities from storms, improve the climate resilience of fisheries and strengthen food security.
As communities work to manage their resources more sustainably, they will help to reduce climate risk, strengthen local institutions and diversify income through new jobs in areas such as ecosystem management, ecotourism and sustainable agriculture and aquaculture. A more diverse local economy will also increase people's ability to weather extreme events like drought or storms.
Sink or Swim
Among the variety of climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts that must be taken, perhaps the most crucial is the protection of those habitats most important for the sequestration of global carbon emissions.
CI is advocating for the inclusion of a proposed mechanism for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) under the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change. CI is working in close collaboration with governments, development organizations and local communities to develop policies, programs and projects for forest conservation.
Although more publicity has been given to the role of terrestrial ecosystems in climate change mitigation, international legislation to support coastal habitats is just as important, if not more so. In fact, marine ecosystems such as mangrove forests and seagrass beds have been found to have great capacity for long-term carbon storage as well.
Ultimately, we can't hope to overcome the challenges of climate change unless we face the issue on all fronts – a united international effort that spans all societies and ecosystems. Our survival depends on our motivation and ability to act.
READ MORE: The United States and Climate Policy