Scientists identify conservation’s future battlegrounds

March 3rd, 2008 - 11:34 am ICT by admin  

New York, March 3 (IANS) Scientists have developed a series of global maps that show where projected habitat loss and climate change are expected to drive the need for future reserves to prevent biodiversity loss.

The study found that many regions that face the greatest habitat change are in globally threatened and species-rich developing tropical nations that have the fewest resources for conservation, Sciencedaily reported.

At the same time, many of the temperate regions in Europe with less biodiversity already have expansive networks and the financial resources for conservation efforts.

“There’s a huge discrepancy between where the world’s conservation resources are concentrated and where the greatest threats to biodiversity are projected to come from future global change,” said Walter Jetz, who headed the study.

“The developed nations are where the world’s wealth is concentrated, but they are not the future battlegrounds for conservation.

“Our study is a first baseline attempt on a global scale to quantitatively demonstrate the urgent need to plan reserves and other conservation efforts in view of future global change impacts,” he added.

“Reserves have often been set up haphazardly, following some national goal, such as to preserve 10 percent of a country’s area, or in response to past threats. But little consideration has been given to the actual geography of future threats in relation to biodiversity. Yet it’s those future threats that expose biodiversity to extinction.”

The researchers examined the impact of climate and land-use changes on networks of biological reserves around the world and contrasted them to four projections of future global warming, agricultural expansion and human population growth from the global Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.

They discovered that past human impacts on the land poorly predicted future impacts of climate change, revealing the inadequacy of current global conservation plans.

“The past can only guide you so much in the future,” said Tien Ming Lee, a graduate student and the first author of the study. “This is why we may have to change our future conservation priorities if we want to be effective in conserving biodiversity in the long run.”

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