Recently, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA), indicated that climate change is likely to become the dominant direct driver of biodiversity loss by the end of the century. Current climate change estimates predict increases in temperatures of 1.4°C to 5.8°C by 2100. This will affect species in several ways such as: changes in distribution; increased extinction rates; changes in reproduction timings; and changes in length of growing seasons for plants.
The rich variety of life on Earth has always had to deal with a changing climate. However, the unprecedented pace of change we are presently experiencing is so rapid that a great number of species can not adapt fast enough to the new conditions, or move to regions more suited for their survival due to habitat fragmentation. In fact, recent estimates show that up to a million species may become extinct as a result of climate change.
On the positive side, biodiversity can help to reduce the effects of climate change on the world’s population and ecosystems. Indeed, the links between biodiversity and climate change run both ways: biodiversity is threatened by climate change, but biodiversity resources can reduce the impacts of climate change. It is therefore crucial to conserve biodiversity that is especially sensitive to climate change, preserve habitats so as to facilitate the long-term adaptation of biodiversity, improve our understanding of climate change and biodiversity linkages, and fully integrate biodiversity considerations into mitigation and adaptation plans. If the threats of biodiversity loss and climate change are tackled together, the prospects for adapting successfully to the challenges of the coming decades will be very much improved. This constitutes the overall message for this year’s celebration of the International Day for Biological Diversity.