Loss and Damage to Ecosystem Services

Loss and Damage to Ecosystem Services

This working paper highlights loss and damage to ecosystems from climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report (2014) indicates that adaptation options for ecosystems may be more limited than for human systems and consequently loss and damage both to ecosystems, and to ecosystem services, may be expected. The paper argues that ecosystem services underpin human livelihoods. It is therefore critical to better assess loss and damage to ecosystem services.

The paper assesses current and expected losses and damages to ecosystem services through a survey of the Working Group II Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change, and a detailed case study of the impact of glacial loss in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca. Evidence for changes to services is seen in the different phases of hydrological shift of glacial melt. While the impact of other stressors resulting from human activity on ecosystem services need to be considered, greater focus is needed on the relationships between climate change, loss and damage, ecosystem services and human well-being. Ultimately efforts to protect ecosystem services may help build resilience in human livelihoods and minimize loss and damage.

The paper concludes that loss and damage in ecosystems services is an improved starting point for better understanding the feedbacks between changes in ecosystems and human wellbeing and on possibilities for adaptation. Social, technological and economic factors have the potential to buffer the impact of declining ecosystem services on human well-being. For example, increased use of bed nets could help overcome the impact of decreased natural regulation of malaria vectors due to changes in temperature or rainfall. It could be possible to create highland reservoirs to stabilize the cycle of seasonal runoff in Peru (Bradley et al., 2006). Behavioural adaptation could also take place.

The paper argues that fair and adequate policies should also be implemented to protect water rights, as there is likely to be an increasing reliance on mechanisms to capture and save water. Ultimately, minimizing loss to ecosystem services may provide a cost effective way to minimize loss and damage to human systems. Support for maintenance of ecosystem services should become a central focus of the Warsaw International Mechanism. This would help to reduce risks, build resilience and support human development.

[Adapted from source]

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