Changing climate change from Sweden to Colombia

11 December 2009 | International news release

Copenhagen, Denmark, 11 December, 2009 (IUCN) – Conserving and managing nature as a way to adapt to the impacts of climate change can benefit both wealthy and poor countries alike, the latest IUCN report has found.

Managing, protecting and restoring nature so that it continues to provide the services, which enable people to adapt to climate change, is known as Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA). Adaptation projects in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and South America directly related to the sustainable management of nature are the focus of IUCN’s report, Ecosystem-based Adaptation: a natural response to climate change launched today in Copenhagen.

Vulnerable communities across the globe already suffer from climate change’s impacts on agriculture, water availability and quality, ecosystem services, biodiversity, and health," says Ninni Ikkala, IUCN’s Climate Change Coordinator. “Ecosystem-based adaptation helps people cope with old and new challenges and, what is more, enables local communities to make their own decisions and benefit from them.”

In the high mountains of Colombia 78 percent of the glaciers might disappear by 2050, according to the report. This would result in losing the environmental goods and services provided by these ecosystems, such as soil protection, food and water supply.

With 80 percent of the population living in the surrounding area relying on the water that the Chingaza Massif provides, the need for ecosystem-based adaptation strategies resulted in involving the local communities in the restoration of watersheds, riversides and landslides areas," says Angela Andrade, Deputy Chair of IUCN’s Commission on Ecosystem Management.

Water is at the centre of climate change impacts, and at the centre of adaptation policies, planning and action. Allocation of water to sustain natural infrastructure, such as wetlands, provides capacity to deal with the uncertain future," says Mark Smith, Head of IUCN’s Water Programme.

Uncertain climatic conditions also threaten the livelihoods of farmers in central Sweden. They have developed a range of ecosystem-based management practices, such as diversification of crops, planting and protection of trees in wetlands and manual weeding, which resulted in increasing their resilience to climate change, and enhancing local and regional biodiversity.

Lack of fire management in Australia result in rapidly expanding fires, which destroy rainforest ecosystems over tens of thousands of kilometers. According to the report, an ecosystem-based adaptation initiative has enabled indigenous fire managers to use early dry-season burning to limit wildfires and significantly reduce ecosystem degradation.

Well-managed ecosystems have a greater potential to adapt themselves to climate change, resist and recover more easily from extreme weather events, and provide a wide range of benefits on which people depend, such as water, food and fuel,” says Neville Ash, Head of IUCN’s Ecosystem Management Programme. “This is an immediate and cost-effective solution that can be applied to respond urgently to the impacts of climate change that we are already facing.”

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