Biodiversity as climate guarantor

(Estimated reading time: 4.36 minutes) – Audio version of article available.

Caring for the environment is closely linked to preserving biodiversity which, in turn, is a key element for mitigating and adapting to climate change (MITECO). Nature is one of the main tools we have to regulate climate, so how we use the resources it offers to us is very important (European Commission, 2009).

Biodiversity encompasses all the different forms into which life is organised, as well as all living organisms (animals, plants, viruses, and bacteria) and the spaces and ecosystems they live in. Its wealth ensures our survival. Its variety provides us with resources for food and to produce medicines, and with raw materials to produce objects and energy.

We cannot live without all this, nor the services it provides as an air-quality and climate regulator (through plant photosynthesis and the water cycle, for example), in water purification, erosion control, and natural disasters (through the barrier effect) and pollination (thanks to insect action), and more (Biodiversity Foundation).

Ecosystemic services have a huge economic value and are essential to guarantee food safety and the continuity of resources like water and energy as the population grows. All these services are interrelated and depend on each other. This is why it is so important to work on preserving our natural capital. The problem is that it has always been there, and mankind freely took its goods without calculating the cost of its destruction. It is estimated that, if we continue at the current pace, only the loss of land biodiversity, without counting ocean ecosystems, could cost 7% of the GDP from now until 2050 (European Union, September 2009).

As such, the richer biodiversity is, the greater chance of survival those of us living on the planet have. This is why the Natura 2000 network is so important (European Commission), the European ecological network of biodiversity conservation areas and the main instrument to preserve nature in the European Union.

This is the largest coordinated network of protected areas in the world. It covers over 18% of the EU’S land surface, and more than 8% of its marine territory, with approximately 1,150,000 km 2 in total. It contains Special Areas of Conversation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas for Birds (SPAs). There are also Sites of Community Importance (SCIs), which is an important previous step for an area to become a SAC.

In Spain, the network already has 1,467 SCIs approved by the European Commission, and 657 SPAs. In total, a surface area of over 222,000 km2, 27.35% of Spain. Of this, 84,000 km2 fall under marine territory (MITECO).

Conserving ecosystems and preventing changes in soil use help to guarantee a bearable climate, as stated by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). Currently consisting of over 135 countries, this intergovernmental platform insists that having rich and varied ecosystems is an “insurance policy” against the impacts of climate change.

In this vein, several UN bodies signed a joint statement 8 March 2021, asking for the right to a healthy environment given the “triple environmental crisis: climate change, loss of biodiversity and pollution” faced by humanity. The manifesto says that the rights of present and future generations depend on a fair ecological transition, leaving no one behind. The challenge is to obtain “an environmentally healthy and socially equitable world and realize human rights for all” (UNEP, Marzo 2021).

In short, caring for biodiversity means guaranteeing our future.

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