In fact, studies show a key part of the solution is in our backyard.
A joint report released last week by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services found that addressing loss of species and diversity of species in environments is essential to fighting climate change.
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Efforts to curb species loss doesn’t harm the climate. However, some solutions to sequester carbon or slow warming — such as planting trees in ecosystems that haven’t historically been forests or growing crops for biofuels — can hurt biodiversity and leave environments more vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
Technical efforts to address climate change, such as building dams or sea walls, might temporarily protect specific areas, but they can also hurt the environment.
Rocky outcroppings near goat prairies in southeastern Minnesota’s Driftless Region are prime habitat for timber rattlesnakes. This one, in Houston County, is home to at least one rattler.
In other words, looking at carbon capture and climate change without looking at biodiversity could make the problem worse.
“Changes in biodiversity, in turn, affect climate, especially through impacts on nitrogen, carbon and water cycles,” professor Hans-Otto Pörtner, co-chair of the Scientific Steering Committee, wrote in a summary of the findings.
The studies echo a report last year by The Nature Conservancy that identified areas that will be resilient to climate change due to their ability to host diverse ecosystems.
The Driftless Area has been resilient through multiple ice ages. The region earned its name due to the land formations that are hundreds of millions of years old that have been untouched by glaciers and haven’t filled in with glacial debris, known as “drift.” Some species of animals and plants that existed in the surrounding region but died out during natural cycles of warming and cooling have survived here.
To protect biodiverse areas, they need to first be identified. Minnesota is well on its way in that effort.
The Minnesota Biological Diversity Survey, in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy and the University of Minnesota, is an ongoing Minnesota Department of Natural Resources program to identify native rare plant and animal species and the ecosystems they occupy in the state.
The statewide map of the areas identified as “moderate” to “outstanding” biodiversity show that the bluffs along the Mississippi River and much of Wabasha, Winona and Houston counties host biodiverse ecosystems.
The map shows Northern Minnesota as having significant biodiversity, though many areas there have yet to be surveyed.
Addressing climate change will take multiple efforts and tools. Taking care of the area around us will be a significant tactic.
John Molseed is a tree-hugging Minnesota transplant making his way through his state parks passport. This column is a space for stories of people doing their part (and more) to keep Minnesota green. Send questions, comments and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.