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Climate change impacts

It is impossible to address biodiversity loss without addressing climate change. Climate change affects biodiversity in multiple ways through complex interactions among and between species and their habitats.  Protected areas play an important role in regulating the climate by making a key contribution to climate change mitigation and adaptation. Hence, climate change response can be divided into “mitigation” (actions that reduce the amount of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere) and “adaptation” (an adjustment by human or natural systems to the changing climate). Protected areas hold great promise as part of a “natural solution” to climate change. Forests, wetlands, grasslands, and marine ecosystems conserved in protected areas store vast amounts of carbon in vegetation, soils, and water. Sequestering and storing CO2 is an important ecosystem service of protected areas and protected area managers should take CO2 sequestration and the CO2 stored in protected areas into consideration when deciding on the objectives of the site and the activities needed to achieve these objectives. Large intact protected areas support adaptation by allowing species to move and respond to changing local climatic conditions.

Another important ecosystem service is that protected areas contribute to strengthening resilience of socio-ecological systems. A diverse landscape with intertwined protected areas and agricultural landscapes has a higher level of resilience against sudden shocks and disasters than monocultural landscapes.

The primary focus of these guidelines is on adaptation. Preparing for change at protected area sites is critical, but at the same time we have to acknowledge that adaptation cannot be accomplished at the local level alone.

Read more about climate change adaptation.