Climate Change Raises Cost of Conservation Efforts
This week Conservation Biology journal published the paper Conservation Focus: Costs of Adapting Conservation to Climate Change.
Researchers convened by Conservation International published the three studies together, which focus on ecosystems in Madagascar, South Africa, and California. The results show that climate change will drastically drive up the cost of conservation efforts and the benefits human reap from them – clean water, clean air, livelihood, etc. According to the studies, the cost may increase up to 100 times more in some cases.
Conservation has never been an easy or a cheap task, but efforts have been paying off in recent years. The recent triumph of conservation efforts to save the Iberian lynx from extinction has paid off, but only after years of hard work and patience. Still, the success of the Lynx Life project was one shared by many around the world and underlines the ability of conservation projects to bring about a positive effect.
Admittedly, not all conservation efforts have been as successful. This is owing to many factors: lack of manpower, information, and support, among others. With the predicted rise in costs, conservation efforts are expected to come against even more rigid constraints in the future.
One instance of how climate change can raise costs is the restoration and maintenance of forests. Environmental Defense Fund discusses how native and endemic species living in forests can be driven into unprotected areas due to changes in the climate. Animals, birds, and many other species are moving to higher places where the temperature is colder. Aside from moving into unprotected areas, it may also be harder for scientists and conservationists to reach them in case intervention is necessary for their survival. Efforts to restore forests are estimated to cost six times as much compared to maintenance of already existing forests. Conservation International points out wisely that “conserving species has become a moving target”.
Expanding boundaries of conservation area may become a more urgent priority in the future as both plants and animals “move” to adapt to climate change. CI argues that planning for conservation efforts needs to include not only the species’ present habitat, but also where they will live in the future. The same is true for endangered animals, especially those which are candidates for captive breeding and relocation. If factors like these are ignored, the efforts, hard work, and success of conservation projects might end up being negated in its culmination. When captive born and bred animals fail to adapt and survive in the changed habitat where healthy numbers of their species previously thrived, the disappointment will be all the more hard to swallow.
Russell Wise, CSIRO’s Ecosystem Sciences’ climate and sustainability economist, points out several factors that will help conservation efforts, particularly in Cape Floristic Region: cost effective, innovative public-private partnerships and community-based mechanisms. These are needed to ensure biodiversity conservation and delivery of ecosystem goods and services supported by the area’s biodiversity itself.
Taking action to end or at least lessen environmentally-destructive practices now also helps, and is more desirable than patching up what’s left in the future. Responsible management and maintenance of our resources and biodiversity now is more effective than rebuilding from leftovers.
It’s just like taking action to help an ailing tree; it may be costly and difficult now, but watching the tree die, pulling it out by the roots, and starting from scratch is even more so – and will include the loss of the majestic old growth in the bill.
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