Effective climate change adaptation strategies for biodiversity conservation
- Assistant Professor of Climate Change, School of Biological Sciences, Queen's University Belfast, Belfast, UK
Effective Climate Change (CC) adaptation strategies for biodiversity conservation have been heavily discussed recently. Currently, there are ~650 CC adaptation recommendations such as managing healthy vegetation on slopes (Veech, 2003), terrestrial and inland water systems (Settele et al., 2014), landscape restoration efforts (Pradhan and Shrestha, 2007), creation and protection of climate refuges (Lindenmayer et al., 2010), wildlife conservation (Mawdsley et al., 2009) among several others (Grabherr, 2009; Khattak et al., 2010). However, they are vague, lack specific solutions with limited analysis of significant benefits, advantages and disadvantages. Over the last few years, I have been developing a database which critically evaluates a variety of CC adaptation strategies, for several biodiversity conservation scenarios. After performing extensive analysis of the existing recommendations, and comparing them against the database that I have been populating, I have critically identified and analyzed 13 effective adaptation strategies for biodiversity conservation that confer significant ecological benefits, and therefore, I discuss them here as most effective. They are segmented under  identification and analysis of existing stressors,  initiation of strategic zoning of land uses,  better preparation for major disturbances,  identification and designation of reserves, and  increased communication of knowledge to stakeholders. Intended benefits of such adaptation strategies include [a] improved capacity of decision makers to adapt to CC; [b] ability to adapt CC with specific reference to the interactions between ecosystems, communities and populations; [c] ability to device most appropriate adaptation strategies for different CC scenarios; [d] increased flow of communication; [e] ability to device proactive adaptive strategies for different habitat; [f] establish cross-national collaboration among the organizations; [g]ability to develop guidelines for adapting to CC that is specific for regions prone to extremities of stress, and [h] quantify environmental susceptibility against adaptive capacity, for effective biodiversity conservation (see Table 1).
Table 1. Important CC adaptation strategies for biodiversity conservation and their significant outcomes.
Identification and Analysis of Existing Stressors
Identification and analysis of existing stressors with a view at understanding their interactions with ecosystem is one of the important factors for successful adaptation (Pradhan et al., 2006), because CC is linked to rainfall patterns and their effect on vegetation (Martin et al., 2010; Reuter et al., 2013) and socio economic factors, further impacting overall biodiversity (Tsay and Holben, 2007). The stressors once identified will help us understand the inter relationships between complex ecological processes, upon which human societies depend (Huntington, 2010), to device effective adaptation techniques, and to develop restoration programs including for threatened ecosystems and species (Mischke et al., 2008; Roy et al., 2012). This will enhance co-operation between the researchers, by promoting collaborative data analysis. One of the significant outcomes of this adaptation strategy is that, it will lead to greater understanding of CC and the importance of conservation, providing information on how different environmental factors are interlinked, where a small change in one factor will have tremendous implications on other factors in locations far away.
Initiation of Strategic Zoning of Land Uses
Several research studies have confirmed that an important adaptation technique for CC would be to sequester and store carbon in the terrestrial biosphere through better land management, particularly through improved native forest management (Mirza, 2002); establishing tree plantations (Hoorn et al., 2000) and revegetation programs, especially on cleared agricultural land (Hoorn et al., 2000), leading to enhanced benefits. Minimizing human disturbance such as logging will be important, not only for maximizing carbon storage potential, but also for conserving forest biodiversity, as has been shown elsewhere (Xu et al., 2008). Establishment of new areas of plantations on what was formerly agricultural land also can effectively help conserve biodiversity. The benefits include the promotion of the movement of forest-associated species between patches of remnant native forest, further contributing to their persistence at the landscape scale (USAID, Accessed 20121).
Better Preparation for Major Disturbances
Research studies confirm that natural disturbances such as flooding, cyclones, forest fires and land nutrient changes will be more frequent in the coming years as a direct consequence of CC (NSIDC, 20142). It is important to take an adaptive approach that is proactive, and better preparation for a disaster is vital for the conservation of biodiversity. It is further important to anticipate timing, exact location, the extent and severity of the disturbances. Direct benefits to such a pro-active adaptive approach are [a] enhanced ability to make management responses to major natural disturbance and [b] reduced risks of such responses on biodiversity (Millar et al., 2007). Such adaptive approaches have been successfully followed in Australia (Lindenmayer et al., 2010). There are a number of parallel benefits of these adaptive ecological impact studies, including identification of indicator species, understanding of short and long term effects on species (Lawler, 2009) better protection of refuges, better prediction of future, and greater understanding of adaptive genetic variation.
Identification and Designation of Reserves
Reserves are an important aspect of CC adaptation strategies with definite benefits (Rawat and Rawat, 1994; Tiwari, 2000) primarily because of stresses that affect biodiversity (Umina et al., 2005). Adapting CAR principle (comprehensive, adequate and representative) to identify and secure reserves have been suggested as an important adaptive biodiversity conservation strategy (Phillips et al., 2002; Pratchett et al., 2006). Major benefits of securing the reserves are to [a] help managers in early adaptation [b] preserve genetic diversity [c] institute flexible zoning policies in and around the reserves, and [d] protect functional groups and keystone species.
Increased Communication of Knowledge to Stakeholders
Establishment of International collaboration centers in unified action is being discussed more often as it leads to [a] identification of already existing common adaptive strategies among people from the region (Sanchez et al., 2010), [b] secure boundaries of existing reserves (Seabrook et al., 2011), [c] monitor ecotones and gradients (Keane et al., 2008), and [d] study process of change at multiple spatial and temporal scales (Butler, 2009).
Conflict of Interest Statement
The author declares that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.
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Keywords: climate change, adaptation, biodiversity, conservation, sustainable development
Citation: Subrahmanyam S (2015) Effective climate change adaptation strategies for biodiversity conservation. Front. Environ. Sci. 3:32. doi: 10.3389/fenvs.2015.00032
Received: 07 January 2015; Accepted: 01 April 2015;
Published: 21 April 2015.
Edited by:Veerasamy Sejian, Indian Council of Agricultural Research, India
Reviewed by:Cemal Turan, Mustafa Kemal University, Turkey
Copyright © 2015 Subrahmanyam. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
*Correspondence: Sreenath Subrahmanyam, firstname.lastname@example.org