Research co-authored by the UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre and other scientific parties has revealed that strategically preserving 30% of valuable land in biodiversity hotspots would preserve carbon stocks by up to 80% and secure biodiversity benefits by 95%. Conserving land in specific areas would enable the sequestering of 500 gigatonnes of carbon globally within soil and vegetation, triggering a fall of extinction rates in 9 out of 10 threatened terrestrial species as a result. 

The report highlights the intrinsic link between biodiversity loss and climate change and finds that conserving natural ecosystems plays a fundamental role in reducing the loss of stored carbon, reducing the rate of extinction as well as avoiding further damage to the planet, all by creating natural solutions. 

By using analysis from Nature Map Earth (an initiative which develops up-to-date spatial data on the distribution of clean water, species and carbon stocks), locations where conservation efforts should be more vehemently undertaken were identified. Some of the hotspots mentioned were: Mesoamerica, the Amazon, Papua New Guinea, South-east Asia, the West-African coast and Australia’s Eastern Rainforest. These geographic regions were identified using a multicriteria optimisation algorithm created by the team of researchers. By creating heightened protection measures in these locations, the report states that achieving biodiversity and climate goals would be more feasible.  

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“Climate change and biodiversity loss are twin crises that should be tackled together, with ambition and integrated action. This analysis highlights locations across the world where conserving land can best help to both keep carbon stocks safely stored away and boost protection for threatened species,” says Valerie Kapos, Head of Climate Change and Biodiversity at World Conservation Monitoring Centre, and co-author of the report. 

The report indicates the importance of using nature-based solutions (actions which restore and modify ecosystems whilst addressing societal issues such as increased urbanisation) and emphasises the importance of sustaining the land rights of indigenous people and local communities living in biodiversity hotspots. Nature-based solutions were a key point of discussion during this year’s Race to Zero campaign where the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties President, Alok Sharma, as well as Italian Environment Minister, Sergio Costa, both highlighted its importance. The UN says that incorporating the tools and strategies outlined with the report will be critical in achieving policy goals (target 2- to protect and conserve 30% of land and target 7- to use nature-based solutions to mitigate climate change) of the Zero Draft of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.

The UK’s Government Minister for Pacific and the Environment, Lord Zac Goldsmith, has shown his support of the latest findings, saying, “This important research underlines the critically important connections between climate and biodiversity and the urgent need to protect nature. In September, the Prime Minister committed to protect 30% of our land by 2030 as we work to build back better and greener from the coronavirus pandemic. This builds on our campaign through the Global Ocean Alliance to protect 30% of the world’s ocean by 2030. We are encouraging all countries to increase their efforts to protect and restore nature as a solution not only to climate change, but biodiversity loss and poverty too.”