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New World Map iden­ti­fies areas most vul­ner­a­ble to cli­mate change

pub­lished 22 Sep­tem­ber 2013 | mod­i­fied 26 July 2014

Using data from the world’s ecosys­tems and pre­dic­tions of how cli­mate change will impact them, sci­en­tists from the Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion Soci­ety (WCS), the Uni­ver­sity of Queens­land, and Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity have pro­duced a roadmap that iden­ti­fies the world’s most vul­ner­a­ble and least vul­ner­a­ble areas in the Age of Cli­mate Change.

climate worldmap newThe authors say the vul­ner­a­bil­ity map will help gov­ern­ments, envi­ron­men­tal agen­cies, and donors iden­tify areas where to best invest in pro­tected area estab­lish­ment, restora­tion efforts, and other con­ser­va­tion activ­i­ties so as to have the biggest return on invest­ment in sav­ing ecosys­tems and the ser­vices they pro­vide to wildlife and peo­ple alike.

The study appeared online on 15 Sep­tem­ber in the jour­nal Nature Cli­mate Change. The authors include: Dr James Wat­son of the Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion Soci­ety and the Uni­ver­sity of Queens­land; Dr Takuya Iwa­mura of Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity; and Nathalie Butt of the Uni­ver­sity of Queensland.

The analy­sis and map in this study is a means of bring­ing clar­ity to com­pli­cated deci­sions on where lim­ited resources will do the most good
Dr. James Wat­son, lead author, Direc­tor of WCS’s Cli­mate Change Program »

“We need to realise that cli­mate change is going to impact ecosys­tems both directly and indi­rectly in a vari­ety of ways and we can’t keep on assum­ing that all adap­ta­tion actions are suit­able every­where. The fact is there is only lim­ited funds out there and we need to start to be clever in our invest­ments in adap­ta­tion strate­gies around the world,” Wat­son said.

The researchers argue that almost all cli­mate change assess­ments to date are incom­plete in that they assess how future cli­mate change is going to impact land­scapes and seascapes, with­out con­sid­er­ing the fact that most of these land­scapes are mod­i­fied by human activ­i­ties in dif­fer­ent ways, mak­ing them more or less sus­cep­ti­ble to cli­mate change.

A vul­ner­a­bil­ity map pro­duced in the study exam­ines the rela­tion­ship of two met­rics: how intact an ecosys­tem is, and how sta­ble the ecosys­tem is going to be under pre­dic­tions of future cli­mate change. The analy­sis cre­ates a rat­ing sys­tem with four gen­eral cat­e­gories for the world’s ter­res­trial regions,with man­age­ment rec­om­men­da­tions deter­mined by the com­bi­na­tion of factors.

Ecosys­tems with highly intact veg­e­ta­tion and high rel­a­tive cli­mate stability,for instance, are the best loca­tions for future pro­tected areas, as these have the best chance of retain­ing species. In con­trast, ecosys­tems with low lev­els of veg­e­ta­tion and high rel­a­tive cli­mate sta­bil­ity could merit efforts at habi­tat restora­tion. Ecosys­tems with low lev­els of veg­e­ta­tion intact­ness and low cli­mate sta­bil­ity would be most at risk and would require sig­nif­i­cant lev­els of invest­ment to achieve con­ser­va­tion outcomes.

The new map, the authors say, iden­ti­fies south­ern and south­east­ern Asia,western and cen­tral Europe, east­ern South Amer­ica, and south­ern Aus­tralia as some of the most vul­ner­a­ble regions. The analy­sis dif­fers from pre­vi­ous cli­mate change expo­sure assess­ments based on only cli­mate change expo­sure which shows the most vul­ner­a­ble regions as cen­tral Africa, north­ern South Amer­ica, and north­ern Australia.

“Effec­tive con­ser­va­tion strate­gies must antic­i­pate not only how species and habi­tats will cope with future cli­mate change, but how humans will respond to these chal­lenges,” added Dr. John Robin­son, Exec­u­tive Vice Pres­i­dent for Con­ser­va­tion and Sci­ence. “To that end, main­tain­ing the integrity of the world’s ecosys­tems will be the most impor­tant means of safe­guard­ing the nat­ural world and our own future.”

(Source: WCS press release, 16.09.2013)

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