Climate change

Forests cover approximately one third of the global land surface and provide essential services that support human livelihoods and well-being. They comprise the majority of terrestrial biodiversity and store about half the total carbon contained in land ecosystems. Tropical and subtropical forests are the main biodiversity hotspots, particularly rainforests and coastal forests. Even moderate climate change as projected in unavoidable and stable scenarios would put some of this biodiversity at considerable risk, while worse case scenarios foresee catastrophic losses. As average global temperatures rise, the impacts on forest, savanna and steppe habitats and its species will depend on many factors, including local topography and changes in ocean currents, wind and rainfall patterns. In addition to variation in temperature and precipitation at different altitudes and latitudes, significant changes in the timing, length and severity of seasons have been witnessed.

Middle Atlas, Morocco As global average temperatures continue to rise, it is important to develop strategies, policies and guidelines to conserve ecosystems and species that will not be able to adapt. This may include moving boundaries of protected areas and ensuring better connectivity through wildlife corridors. More radical measures, however, may also be needed such as modifying or newly creating habitats and translocating whole animal and plant communities. In addition, measures which reduce the impacts of other human-induced pressures will help reduce overall vulnerability and strengthen the resilience of landscapes, ecosystems and species to climate change. In this endeavour, FAO, in partnership with relevant organizations, assists member countries in mitigating the impacts of climate change on wildlife and protected areas for the benefit of rural communities through normative work and field project activities.


FAO Forestry Paper 167: Wildlife in a changing climate

last updated:  Thursday, April 19, 2012