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and Climate Change

Globally, we are in the midst of what has been described as the sixth extinction, with between 20 and 50 per cent of
species expected to disappear by 21001. Business as usual is projected to result in a global average warming of 3 to
5C within the lifetime of children born today, fundamentally altering the world as we know it. Not surprisingly, these
two phenomena are linked in several waysnamely, through climate change impacts, mitigation efforts, and
adaptation opportunities.

Effective climate change policy and measures will need to take account of and ensure the resiliency of available
ecosystems services and natural capital provided in part by biodiversity. By doing so, and by aligning biodiversity
interests with those of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change working groups, an
opportunity is afforded for increased attention and resources to be allocated to conservation, wildlife, and
biodiversity policy actions.






alien species


species-atrisk listing


Figure 1: This Venn diagram represents the intersection of biodiversity issues with climate change impacts, mitigation efforts, and
adaptation opportunities.

The 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment defined ecosystem services as the benefits people obtain from
ecosystems2. As Figure 1 depicts, these services can provide benefits for mitigation and adaptation in terms of
climate change impacts.

As an example of an ecosystem service, natural wetlands provide benefits to humans for responding to increased
storm events, an impact of climate change. As natural flood control mechanisms mitigating damage caused by these
storm events, wetlands can function as adaptation tools for new infrastructure developments while also supporting
regional biodiversity. They also play a role in sequestering carbon.


The Future is Here: An Urgent Call to Defend Nature, Stabilize the Climate and Transition to Post-Carbon Prosperity, 2015. Sierra Club BC.
Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005. Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Biodiversity Synthesis. World Resources Institute, Washington, DC.

Another key benefit humans derive from ecosystems is as a natural carbon sink. Carbon sinksmostly forests and
oceanssequester carbon dioxide and thus reduce the greenhouse effect in the atmosphere. Carbon sinks are also
another important example of the link between biodiversity and climate change, since they can simultaneously
support biodiversity while mitigating CO2 emissions from anthropogenic sources. Further, protecting, conserving and
restoring natural carbon sinks provides an opportunity to sustain more biodiverse ecosystems that are more resilient
to the impacts of the changing climate.

An increase of global temperatures by 1 C will force ecosystem zones to shift a predicted 300 m up in elevation and
150 km north in BC in the next 70-100 years. This projected 'ecological zone shift' is estimated to be at a rate of 40 km
per decadebut 'average' wildlife can shift habitats at a maximum of just 6 km per decade3. Species are likely to be
challenged to survive in their existing habitat if and when an ecological zone shift occurs. Others may undergo a
climate change-induced migration but fail to survive in their new habitat due to non-climatic forces. Both situations
necessitate re-thinking and new knowledge regarding the definition of at-risk species and, more importantly, the
relative effectiveness of species conservation efforts.

Climate change-induced migration will drive the movement of species in such a way to pose increased,
multidimensional risks as invasive alien species (IAS). IAS threaten biodiversity, often by outcompeting or displacing
existing species, such as in the case of the mountain pine beetle infestation of BC forests. IAS can also serve as new
vectors for pathogens, like mosquitoes extending the range of Lyme disease-spreading bacteria. The human,
ecological and economic risks of IAS are significant even prior to being amplified by climate change.

Establishing and maintaining wildlife corridors facilitates climate change-induced migrations and, by using landscape
connectivity, protects biodiversity and builds ecological resilience. Thus, wildlife corridors are examples of key
measures to both reduce climate change impacts on wildlife populations and to proactively adapt to a changing

It is evident that there is a strong link between ecosystem conservation and anthropogenic climate change. In fact,
one-fifth of the worlds carbon emissions come from deforestation and land degradation4. Forest ecosystems contain
more than half of the worlds terrestrial carbon, and account for about 80 percent of the carbon exchange between
terrestrial ecosystems and the atmosphere5. These are just two examples of how biodiversity and climate change are
connected, in terms of impacts, adaptation, and mitigation.

The 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment lays out several priority recommendations, one of which is to integrate
nature conservation strategies with climate action strategies. Doing so would align conservation, wildlife and
biodiversity interests with those of the governments renewed focus on climate change.

Further, in a comparative case study of ecosystem-based adaptation in Germany and Sweden, researchers
acknowledged that ecosystem-based approaches originated from policies developed for climate mitigation policy,
concluding that such policy integration and planning is often a precursor to progress in the mainstreaming of
ecosystem-based adaptation6.

Climate Change, Biodiversity and the Benefit of Healthy Ecosystems, 2007. Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Vancouver, BC, p. 4.
Pojar, Jim. A New Climate for Conservation: Nature, Carbon and Climate Change in British Columbia, 2010. David Suzuki Foundation, Vancouver, BC, p. 57.
Ibid., p. 53.
Christine Wamsler & Stephan Pauleit, Making headway in climate policy mainstreaming and ecosystem-based adaptation: two pioneering countries,
different pathways, one goal, 2016. Climatic Change, pp. 1-17.

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