Biodiversity, Development and Poverty Alleviation in the context of Climate Change

Biodiversity has been considered as a life-support system in certain environmental crises arising from climate change. It offers a set of solutions for mitigation as well as adaptation.

Biodiversity based mitigation strategy needs to have two basic components reduction in emissions from biological systems and increase in their storage of carbon. Terrestrial ecosystems, including soils, store almost three times as much carbon as the atmosphere. The tropical and sub-tropical forests, temperate grasslands, and forests and drylands are important carbon sinks. Mainly three kinds of approaches have been suggested for mitigation of carbon emissions. These are (1) existing stores could be protected and current high rate of loss reduced; (2) historically depleted stores could be replenished by restoring ecosystems and soils; and (3) potentially new stores could be created by encouraging greater carbon storage in areas that currently have little through practices such as afforestation. Such efforts, along with reducing the rates of deforestation by 50% by 2050 and maintaining the demand at current level till 2100, will contribute to 12% reduction of total emission reductions. In addition, the components of biodiversity provide opportunities by having fast-growing woody species, possibilities of exploring new organisms with higher efficiency of carbon sequestration, and so on.

The broad base of biodiversity also has immense potential in adaptation. The importance of biodiversity can be seen at three levels - genes, species, and ecosystems.

Genetic diversity is an important source to identify genes that would provide solutions for addressing issues such as crop productivity, thus fulfilling the demands of animal resources such as milk, wool, and meat. Traditional crop varieties and indigenous animal genetic resources are important repositories for this purpose.

The species documented and yet to be discovered are immensely important for a variety of uses. Modern drug discoveries are mainly based on active principles available naturally. The flora and fauna species diversity, including micro-organisms, are an important base available for research and development of new drugs. Similarly, a variety of uses are associated with species diversity in light of the impacts of climate change.

Ecosystems are perceived as barriers against natural calamities. For example, mangrove ecosystems are known to reduce the impacts of natural calamities like tsunamis, thus serving as a buffer for the land and habitat. Similarly, conservation of rare and endangered species would require developing corridors and buffer zones so as to reduce immediate impacts on the flora and fauna. Thus, the existence of ecosystems provides a long-term benefit for the survival for flora and fauna as well as habitations.

The importance and conservation of biodiversity for mitigation and adaptation raise several issues about availability of existing knowledge, governance, possible conducive policy environment, role of local communities and traditional knowledge, and so on.

The National Action Plan on Climate Change for India addresses the measures to be taken for biodiversity in three missions.

1. National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem.
2. National Mission for a Green India.
3. National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture.

Learnings from the Indian experience have wider benefits in South Asian and pan-tropical context in terms of developing programmes for mitigation and adaptation based on biodiversity resources.

Date: 22 May 2010 Theme: Climate Change
Location: India Habitat Centre, New Delhi
Category: Any Other


Dr Yogesh Gokhale
Climate Change Division