Monday, July 21, 2008

Planning for the inevitable: the impact of climate change on biodiversity

Environmental Climate change is already having an impact on habitats and species in Europe, for example a decrease in plant species has been recorded in some areas. According to recent research, spatial planning is a key concept in making European ecosystems more resilient to climate change, as it takes into account all factors that affect a habitat, including economic development, transport, environmental protection, health and culture.

…The EU’s 2006 Biodiversity Communication and its Action Plan set an agenda for action to halt the loss of biodiversity by 2010, as agreed in the Gothenburg summit, 2001. However, biodiversity continues to decline under pressure from land use change and development. For example, as water supplies for urban populations shrink, building new infrastructures may place stress on existing ground and surface water systems and the flora and fauna that rely on it.

The research reviewed land use plans and policy in three countries: France, the Netherlands and the UK. It looked at their use of natural resources, management of water and coastal zones, plans for designated sites and case studies on urban, rural, inland and coastal sites. The policies were examined for their ability to account for biodiversity adaptation to climate change and to identify ways of integrating ‘spatial planning’ and biodiversity policy. Spatial planning has a broader sense than ‘land use’, in that it accounts for all activities and interests that concern a particular area.

…They recommend ‘climate-proofing’ plans through the use of Environmental Impact Assessment and Strategic Environmental Assessment. Land use plans should be integrated with the adoption of common objectives, time horizons and boundaries. The study also highlighted the need for more flexible responses to climate change, with stakeholders safeguarding habitats in between protected areas. This would result in more robust conservation planning across whole landscapes, reducing fragmentation of sites and creating corridors and networks for wildlife. International cooperation was also found to be critical, as wildlife moves across national boundaries. Integration with agriculture, transport and water sectors would also lead to a better capacity to adapt to climate change…

The biogeographical regions of Europe, from the European Environment Agency, Wikimedia Commons

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