The nature of the beast: Prioritising biodiversity to combat climate change
Climate change and biodiversity loss are intrinsically interlinked. We can help you to integrate biodiversity improvement into your sustainability plans and deliver not only a carbon neutral future, but also a nature positive one.
How is climate change impacting biodiversity?
Climate change is a shift in global temperature and weather conditions. It has been confirmed over the past 40 years that, since industrialisation, human actions have caused the current rapid change in climate. This change will cause increasing variation in weather patterns and temperatures across the world. These will not be uniform or consistent but will be dependent on how climate change impacts some of the biggest influences on the weather systems. Examples of its effects include moisture evaporating from the oceans, the melting of glaciers and changing wind patterns.
Biodiversity is impacted by climate change. Many species are specifically adapted to the environment and the climate they have lived within for thousands of years. This adaptation gives them the competitive advantage to reproduce and sustain their populations. When the environment where they live changes, not all species are able to adapt quickly enough and some may be unable to survive.
Further to this, climate change is impacting the ability of nature to provide the services we depend on for our survival. Ecosystem services, including oxygen production, water purification and flood defences, are provided by key habitats, such as forests, the sea and peatlands. When these habitats are damaged, it can compromise their ability to deliver ecosystem services. This results in a range of issues and impacts across the globe.
The Arctic Circle:
Species that live in the Arctic are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. In the polar regions, climate change is amplified as these areas suffer from greater increases in temperature than other parts of the world. When the ice melts, it is no longer able to reflect energy from the sun back into space, thus exacerbating the world’s increase in temperature. The increasing loss of polar ice means highly adapted animals are unable to hunt or use camouflage and the melting of ice results in raised sea levels around the world.
The warming of the oceans increases their acidity and carbon dioxide levels, which is causing coral bleaching across the world. It also impacts the ability of shellfish to create their shells. The loss of coral and other small shellfish can impact a range of species, such as fish, through a loss of food. The warming of oceans can disrupt breeding grounds and migration patterns. The sea is also full of algae that acts as a carbon sink and oxygen producer, critical to all life on earth, and also impacted by warming seas.
Changes in weather patterns are increasing the amount of extreme weather we experience: flooding, fires or longer droughts. Some species can adapt, while many cannot, resulting in increased levels of extinction. We are losing large areas of forest annually to forest fires, and ongoing desertification caused by rising temperatures is reducing the quality of soil and therefore its ability to support plant life.
How can biodiversity impact climate change?
The loss of biodiversity, including animals, plants and broader ecosystems, can exacerbate climate change. When we lose woodland to fires, or coral reefs to ocean acidification, we are losing vital carbon sinks and releasing increased amounts of carbon into the air. As opposed to that, by restoring ecosystems or allowing current ecosystems to expand, we can sequester more carbon and slow down climate change. Diverse and connected ecosystems have the greatest scope to store carbon, and whenever new habitats are created, we should try to make them varied and integrated into the wider ecology. Biodiversity is a key tool in reaching a net-zero world.
What does this mean for your business?
Your business might be worried about climate change, but it also needs to fully consider the risks of biodiversity loss and how it can promote biodiversity. Biodiversity loss and climate change are twin crises that need to be addressed together. Biodiversity loss could have a range of impacts on your business, from the materials or equipment you use and the water involved in key processes to the food you feed your staff. Continued damage to and loss of biodiversity will disrupt supply chains, cause scarcity of some materials and result in increased prices. Biodiversity loss is becoming a key consumer issue and failure to consider biodiversity will result in reputational damage.
How can we use climate action to become Nature Positive?
There is widespread activity around the world to reduce carbon emissions, and as this continues to pick up pace, we may be able to prevent the occurrence of some biodiversity impacts. Organisations have spent time better understanding their supply chains, processes and activities and are making broad changes to reduce their carbon footprints. Through these existing plans, there is an opportunity to incorporate and consider biodiversity. For example, organisations might create new forests with varied and native species that support local wildlife and help provide nature-based solutions. Organisations might also look to ensure the materials used to create renewable energy sources are not sourced from mines that cause the pollution of watercourses.
The lessons companies have learned on their carbon journeys can be a great starting point for them to consider their biodiversity footprint. Utilising mapped supply and value chains can support faster identification of impacts and dependencies on nature. Additionally, the governance and action plans developed to support climate change action can be used for monitoring and implementing activity to enhance nature and limit negative impacts.
To find out more about how we can help you to integrate biodiversity improvement into your sustainability plans, contact the team at Nature Positive.
*Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash