Intact ecosystems provide best defence against climate change

With climate change now posing a clear and present danger all around the planet, scientists are calling for more intelligence in the decisions we make about how we adapt, especially in relation to our ecosystems. In many cases, leaving these ecosystems intact would be the smartest and most cost-effective insurance policy we could have. That’s the message in a paper just published in Nature Climate Change by two CEED researchers Tara Martin and James Watson.

The paper discusses how adaptation strategies that have negative impacts on natural systems may come back to sting us in the long-term. On the other hand, strategies that maintain the ecological integrity of our ecosystems hold real potential to soften the many blows that come with climate change. The scientists cite as examples conservation reserves being used as drought relief to feed livestock, while forests in the Congo Basin in Africa are being cleared for agriculture in response to drought, and coral reefs are being destroyed to build sea walls from the low-lying islands in Melanesia.

“These are just a few of the human responses to climate change that, if left unchallenged, may leave us worse off in the future due to their impacts on nature,” says CSIRO’s Dr Tara Martin. “And yet, functioning and intact forests, grasslands, wetlands and coral reefs represent our greatest protection against floods and storms.”


Martin TG & JEM Watson (2016). Intact ecosystems provide best defence against climate change. Nature Climate Change 6: 122–124. doi:10.1038/nclimate2918

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