Welcome reader. I’m Zariel – your guide to a weekly insight into the research driving climate awareness in our generation. At the Oxford School of Climate Change, enrolled students are able to hear from experts within environmental sciences and engage in the critical discussions shaping global solutions to climate change.
In Week 1 we heard from Yadvinder Malhi CBE FRS (Professor of Ecosystem Science at Oxford University’s School of Geography and the Environment). He was delving into the overlap between biodiversity and climate action. Natural ecosystems being at the heart of climate concern, Professor Malhi explained the necessity of overcoming the twin challenges of halting climate change and reversing biodiversity decline. Bringing it closer to home, the biodiversity of the UK was shown to have been suffering from an ongoing decline for the last 50 years.
Illustrating the relationship between the energy flow of the ocean and the continents, Professor Malhi outlined the flux of metabolism within terrestrial biospheres across seasons. Changes in global temperatures were shown to impact biodiversity associated with the tropics and, subsequently, throughout the globe. The 21st Century is characterised by significant biodiversity loss – not necessarily due to climate change itself, but mainly through pollution and habitat loss. This is, however, subject to change. There is growing uncertainty as to how increasing trends in climate change may impact the biological niches of organisms globally.
Biosphere feedback was a key focal point in this seminar with increased carbon emissions understood to be absorbed by the land biosphere – acidifying oceans and warming the globe. Disregard of the carbon budget in line with the 2 degree celsius goal set out in the Paris Agreement, threatens not only our rainforests but also the stability of high-latitude ecosystems, such as the soils of North-eastern Siberia. These contain the highest density of accumulated carbon and their deterioration could trigger an acceleration of climate change. Energy imbalances caused by non-linear melts of the polar forests in Serbia have caused infrastructural changes. This is evidence of the positive feedback caused by climate change.
Sustainable development in working with the biosphere to help adapt to climate change was proven to be core to the climate initiative. Promoting mass monocultures or fast-growing trees are examples of temporary solutions to carbon emissions, but are not nature-based. Motivating social intervention for nature-based solutions through protecting intact lands from deforestation, enhancing carbon sinks in agricultural lands, and restoring natural ecosystems, present effective strategies for meeting long-term climate targets.
Coming away from this talk, the delicate relationship between biodiversity and climate change could be captured in the idea of “planting the right tree in the right place”, appreciating that tree-planting requires a greater understanding of a tree’s ecological importance. This, alongside long-term planning within both urban and rural landscapes, can help create environments that are more resilient to climate change.