Biodiversity is the variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part. This includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystem. Climate change is having, and will continue to have, a significant impact on biodiversity, which is affected by temperature increase and changing precipitation patterns. The challenges of mitigating and adapting to climate change, achieving inclusive food, water, energy and health security, addressing urban vulnerabilities, and the unequal burdens of nature deterioration, are not only predicaments in their own right. Because they interact, often exacerbating each other, they create new risks and uncertainties for people and nature. It is increasingly evident that the rapid deterioration of interconnected natural systems across land, ocean, atmosphere and biosphere, threatens cascading effects compromising the ability to achieve a range of societal goals and aspirations at all levels (IPBES, 2019).
Observed changes to habitats and species distributions are highly likely to continue. Wetlands in particular will be lost to sea-level rise and the effects of ‘coastal squeeze’ (Kovats et al., 2014). Many species will colonize new habitats, local extinctions will happen, and species behaviour and ecological interactions will be modified. This redistribution of biodiversity, and the net loss of global biodiversity, will negatively impact human wellbeing (Pecl et al., 2017). The overall effectiveness of conservation actions will be challenged, as the predictability of ecosystem dynamics decreases and the pace of climate change exceeds the adaptation potential of many species.
The converging problems thus increase the need for substantial and urgent changes to policy and practice to reduce or reverse these trends. The resilience of species and ecosystems to climate change can be enhanced by reducing non-climatic stresses such as pollution and over-exploitation, by strengthening networks of protected areas and making individual areas more robust, or by facilitating adaptive management through monitoring and evaluation systems (CBD 2009: 9). Rapid and substantial climate impacts require flexible, diverse and customized policy responses (Prober et al., 2018). This means that nature conservation cannot be realized by focusing on overly static goals. Resource constraints also mean that prioritization decisions may need to be made (e.g. which keystone species to conserve first? Which type of habitats are at greatest risk?) (Razgour et al., 2017).