Climate change is affecting people’s livelihoods in more ways than one, and is having a significant impact on biodiversity. We are already subjecting our biodiversity to diverse threats, including from infrastructure development, pollution and conversion of natural habitats. The best means of conserving areas of relatively healthy ecosystems is through the creation and effective management of protected areas. Already about 12% of our planet is under some form of protection. Protected areas conserve not only our planet’s biodiversity but they also secure a steady and regular supply of multiple ecosystem goods, such as medicinal plants or food, and ecosystem services, such as soil stabilisation and carbon sequestration, which are of great value to people living in or around them. The ecosystem value of protected areas has recently been estimated to be worth up to USD 5.2 trillion. In times of stress, such as natural disasters, through the supply of these ecosystems goods and services, protected areas will play an even more important role for poor rural people.
However, climate change will not spare protected areas. In order for them to continue to meet the conservation objectives for which they were created, their resilience will need to be strengthened so that they can adapt to climate change. In most cases, particularly in sensitive ecosystems such as coastal, mountainous and arid zones, this will mean that different planning and management measures will be necessary. For example, restoration may be needed in some areas, in other areas the boundary of a protected area may need to be redefined, in others the area under protection may need to be greatly expanded to include different altitudes for example, in some areas seasonal “no go” zones may be needed etc. Ultimately protected areas that are more resilient to climate change can achieve their conservation objectives while also helping communities living inside and around them to adapt more effectively to the impacts of climate change.
A project funded by the European Union is developing a methodology that will help stakeholders (in particular protected area managers, politicians and rural communities) to identify and implement the measures necessary to build protected areas’ resilience so that they can better adapt to climate change. The methodology will be tested through its practical application in six protected areas in Colombia, Madagascar and the Philippines: Gorgona and Sanquianga National Parks (Colombia), Nosy Hara and Ambodivahibe (Madagsascar), and Sinapaan-Camudmud Marine Protected Area (MPA) and Liguid MPA in the Island Garden City of Samal (IGACOS) (the Philippines).