Managing ecosystems in the context of climate change mitigation: A review of current knowledge and recommendations to support ecosystem-based mitigation actions that look beyond terrestrial forests

Managing ecosystems in the context of climate change mitigation: A review of current knowledge and recommendations to support ecosystem-based mitigation actions that look beyond terrestrial forests

Ecosystem management can play an important role in climate change mitigation and adaptation if current practices are evaluated and improved to move towards sustainability. Terrestrial and coastal ecosystems store more than five times as much organic carbon as there is carbon in the atmosphere, whilst net emissions from land cover change and ecosystem degradation are responsible for about 10% of the total yearly anthropogenic carbon emissions.
 
This review summarizes current knowledge on the potential of ecosystems beyond terrestrial forests to contribute to climate change mitigation. It provides information on the capacity of existing management techniques for peatlands, grasslands and savannahs, coastal ecosystems and croplands to sustain and enhance carbon stocks and carbon sequestration.

Recommendations are made for maximizing synergies with climate change adaptation, disaster risk reduction, sustainable development, environmental protection and biodiversity conservation, including through  landscape-scale approaches that take into account the legitimate interests, knowledge and capacities of all stakeholders. Available evidence concerning the importance of biodiversity for ecosystem resilience and functioning, and thus the long-term effectiveness of ecosystem-based mitigation actions, is also presented.
 
The following recommendations can be made:
  • countries should assess the extent and drivers of processes leading to ecosystem degradation and conversion, as well as opportunities for the restoration and sustainable use of ecosystems, and act on identified opportunities for integrated land use management providing benefits for the climate, biodiversity and ecosystem services. Possibilities to transfer lessons learned from forest-based mitigation efforts to other ecosystems should be explored
  • where ecosystem-based measures to address climate change are envisaged, they should be based on landscape-scale planning involving active and equitable engagement of stakeholders across sectors and scales, including indigenous people and local communities. This can enhance the efficiency, viability and local ownership of measures, given competing demands on terrestrial and coastal areas and the fact that the most suitable areas for different uses are distributed unevenly across landscapes and may be covered by a range of property and tenure rights and legitimate stakeholder interests. This is particularly true for areas where access to resources is shared between large numbers of people, or where use rights are unclear oroverlapping, as is often the case in grassland or coastal ecosystems
  • a review of the incentives (and disincentives) that are in place for different land uses should be carried out to identify opportunities where reforms could make a transition to more sustainable management approaches economically viable and enable positive contributions to local and national economies. Other possible policy options include regulatory approaches such as land use zoning or permitting requirements, the establishment or improved management of protected areas, and demand-side measures for agricultural products
  • donors interested in supporting integrated land management in a particular region should invest in initiatives to make baseline data available for the planning of mitigation and adaptation actions based on ecosystems, as location-specific and ready-to-use information can facilitate action, leveraging large gains for biodiversity and sustainable development
  • while many options for ecosystem-based approaches to address climate change are likely to benefit biodiversity, some risks are also becoming apparent, in particular for natural grasslands; these should be taken into account when looking for actions that provide multiple benefits. Where measures carrying
    potential risk such as afforestation or the cultivation of biofuels are considered, the likely outcomes in terms of carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emissions, climate change adaptation, disaster risk reduction, biodiversity conservation and support to local livelihoods should be carefully assessed
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