Cookies on Environmental Impact

Like most websites we use cookies. This is to ensure that we give you the best experience possible.


Continuing to use  means you agree to our use of cookies. If you would like to, you can learn more about the cookies we use.

Environmental Impact

From climate change to biodiversity loss - documenting human impacts on the environment

Environmental Impact is now available on our new platform, CABI Digital Library. Please note that this website will be discontinued in mid-December, and all access will be automatically redirected to CABI Digital Library.

Take a look at Environmental Impact on CABI Digital Library. 

News Article

Two birds with one stone

Biodiversity conservation is generally beneficial for climate change mitigation

The human race is currently barreling towards a perfect storm of global crises, two of the most prominent of which are the issues of biodiversity loss and climate change. Drastic action needs to be taken to avoid catastrophic consequences for the entire planet. Despite the intimately connected nature of these two issues, they are often addressed separately by policy makers, but it is time to recognize that these interlinked problems can have interlinked solutions.

It seems logical to assume that actions to prevent climate change will also benefit conservation efforts as climate change is a driving factor in biodiversity loss. But a recent review in Global Change Biology has examined the issue conversely and summarized the effect that conservation can have on climate change mitigation. They found that most actions to prevent biodiversity loss also positively benefit the climate and that there are few antagonistic trade-offs. They have gone on to identify the conservation activities that are most likely to aid the battle against climate change, and highlighted some examples of where these activities could be managed effectively.

A key example of a synergistically beneficial action is the restoration or protection of natural areas. Reforestation or protecting existing forests has clear benefits in the increase of carbon sink potential, as forests absorb many gigatons of carbon dioxide every year. Many coastal ecosystems such as mangroves, kelp forests, coral reefs and seagrasses are also very productive and represent the Earth’s “blue carbon” reserves. Many of these ecosystems are seriously degraded by urbanization and coastal development but their restoration would also enhance carbon dioxide pull-down. Another area that requires our attention is the regions of permafrost, permanently frozen ground in which huge reserves of carbon are stored. As these lands melt due to climate change, and are degraded by human activities, the stored carbon is being released as carbon dioxide but also as methane, an even more potent greenhouse gas. Therefore, careful management and restoration of these permafrost regions is urgently required to slow this process.

The review also highlights the importance of expanding the current provision of protected areas. These areas allow the maintenance of biodiverse and productive ecosystems which are a refuge for species and also an effective carbon sink. The current protected areas on land are estimated to store 12-16% of terrestrial carbon and some have suggested that protected areas should be expanded to cover around 50% of land surfaces. The land that needs protecting from biodiversity loss and the land that should be protected for the purposes of carbon draw-down largely overlap, making the expansion of protected areas a win-win as far as these two issues are concerned.

Many further examples are given, including the need to alter agricultural practices, reduce pollution and waste, and encourage societal changes such as a shift towards more plant-based diets and away from unsustainable consumption habits. Overall, they examined each of the action targets from the draft post-2020 global biodiversity framework of the Convention on Biological Diversity and they found that 14 of the 21 targets directly benefitted the climate as well as biodiversity conservation. The dual importance of each of these targets emphasises how vital it is that we strive to achieve them and it highlights the need for a more integrated approach to tackling these issues.

For more information, see Actions to halt biodiversity loss generally benefit the climate

To find similar articles search "climate change" AND ("biodiversity loss" OR conservation)


Article details

  • Author(s)
  • Zoe Weeks
  • Date
  • 27 September 2022
  • Subject(s)
  • Biodiversity
  • Climate Change