Climate Change Costly to World�s Protected Area Network

10/7/2008

Current Investments Are at Risk

Barcelona, Spain � If global greenhouse gas emissions remain at current levels, the cost to ensure that protected areas can safeguard species and ecosystems could reach $11-13 billion, according to a scientific assessment presented today at the IUCN World Conservation Congress (WCC).  In some cases, the cost could exceed current investments in conservation management

A special session entitled �What Will it Cost to Make the World Protected Areas Network Resilient to Climate Change?�  brought together some of the world�s leading scientists, economists, policy makers and journalists to explore how climate change will impact protected area systems and the biological diversity they protect.

�Biodiversity is important not only for maintaining the diversity of life on the planet, it also provides us with clean water, and healthy ecosystems and economies. Climate change threatens our biodiversity security � which must be balanced with other needs, such as food and energy security. Our efforts to safeguard biodiversity security through investments in the world�s protected areas are at risk,� said Sandy Andelman, Vice President for the Tropical Ecology, Assessment and Monitoring Network at Conservation International.
 
If progressive strategies are put in place to stabilize global CO2 emissions, a much lower amount of $3-3.5 billion will be needed for climate adaptive strategies.  The research also reveals differences in where investments should be directed depending on emissions reductions levels.  If the emission levels remain high, climate adaptive investments should be allocated relatively equally among Asia-Pacific (34%), Latin America (30%) and Africa (30%), with less going to North America (6%).  If emissions levels are sufficiently reduced, 44% of investments should be directed to Asia, with 37% to Latin America, 16% to Africa and 3% to North America. 
 
With habitat loss considered the main threat to biodiversity, protected areas are considered the mechanism for safeguarding biodiversity security, by protecting species diversity and ecosystems.  Currently, protected areas cover more than 11.5 percent of the Earth�s land surface, and provide protection for 88 percent of the world�s vertebrate species and 80 percent of all threatened species.  However, scientists warn that protected areas� effectiveness will be greatly reduced by climate change, which threatens biological systems at continental and global scales. More than half the world�s protected areas are expected to be impacted by climate change. In some regions current climates will disappear entirely, posing a new challenge for conservationists.

According to the latest research, an estimated 53 percent of the world�s protected areas are at risk from climate change.  Seventy-seven percent of the protected areas are at risk in humid tropical forests, which are home to more than half the species on Earth and store 80 percent of carbon in terrestrial vegetation. 

�As species ranges shift and habitats change due to carbon emissions-driven climate change, investments in adaptation will escalate, approaching levels higher than some countries� GDPs.  The only sensible thing to do is to cap carbon emissions and do our best to adapt to the changes that are already occurring,�. said Guy F. Midgley, with the South African National Biodiversity Institute. �The United Nations Framework for Climate Change places biodiversity security at a level equivalent to energy, climate and food security,�

The WCC session included case study presentations from South Africa, Chile, Madagascar and California. Focusing on the Mount Hamilton Wilderness, just south of San Francisco, the California study conducted by The Nature Conservancy indicated climate change will triple the cost of achieving California�s current protection goals. Currently, 51 percent of California�s land area is in some form of protected status

Thirty percent of the endemic, highly restricted species like the Bay checkerspot butterfly will be at high risk of local extinction. Further, 50 percent of the wide ranging species like the endangered San Joaquin kit fox will need new climate-adaptive conservation strategies.

�There is a silver lining to these findings, the models from these studies provide a tool for policy makers and land managers to adapt their conservation investment strategies and direct resources to places where they will have the biggest impact for biodiversity security to ensure cost-efficient and effective conservation.� said Rebecca Shaw, director of conservation science for The Nature Conservancy in California.  

For summaries of the analyses presented, visit www.conservation.org/wcc2008.

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Media Contacts:

Lisa Bowen
Conservation International
Phone in Barcelona: +34-638078830
Office Phone: 1 (202) 746-7452
E-mails: lbowen@conservation.org

Tom Cohen
Conservation International
Phone in Barcelona: +34-636834066
Office Phone: 1 (202) 257-9954
E-mail: tcohen@conservation.org

For Latin America:
Maria C. Hoyos
Conservation International
Phone in Barcelona: +34-636652626
E-mail: mchoyos@conservation.org

Misty Herrin
The Nature Conservancy
Phone: +32 487 319 682
Email: mherrin@tnc.org

Vanessa Martin
The Nature Conservancy
Phone: 1 (916) 402-2810
Email: vmartin@tnc.org

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