Ecosystems’ Role in Mitigation and Adaptation to Climate Change

Nazmunnaher Nipa & Touhidur Rahman Tuhin

Ecosystems are one of the components that make up the biosphere, which is the total assembly of the Earth’s ecosystems. Ecosystems also include habitats or places where plants and animals live. Processes that connect ecosystem components within their boundaries frequently cross legal and administrative boundaries established for other purposes. It is almost certain that this will occur.

Ecosystems are made up of plants, animals (including humans), and non-living components (such as air, water, and minerals), as well as the processes that connect them. The frequency with which different species occur within an ecosystem defines its species diversity. The frequency with which different ecosystems occur is a measure of ecosystem diversity.

Photo by William Bossen on Unsplash

Ecosystem Management (EM) is a new holistic approach to natural resource management. It integrates scientific knowledge about ecological interrelationships with a complex socioeconomic and political value framework, intending to ensure the long-term sustainability of a region, i.e., the ecosystem.

Elements of Ecosystem Management:

According to American Forest and Paper Association Forest Resources Board, 1993 “Ecosystem Management is a resource management system designed to maintain or enhance ecosystem health and productivity while producing essential commodities and other values to meet human needs and desires within the limits of socially, biologically and economically acceptable risk”. For ecosystem management some elements are significant. Major elements of ecosystem management are:




Context and scale

Complexity and compactness/connectedness

Sound ecological principles and understanding

Humans as ecosystem components

The ecological basis for EM:

Ecosystem management is a natural progression in society’s thinking and understanding of natural resource management. Ecosystem management entails shifting the emphasis from sustaining the production of goods and services to ensuring the long-term viability of ecological, social, and economic systems.

Ecosystem management should aim to preserve all natural ecosystems, from alpine tundra to deserts, as well as the riparian and aquatic environments that support them. The most scientifically sound basis for ecosystem management is to ensure that the variation that characterizes ecosystems includes the range of conditions that are expected at various scales in unaffected ecosystems.

Based on our guiding principles, natural resource management would emphasize restoring or maintaining conditions found in constantly changing natural systems. This approach would preserve all components of natural ecosystems in general, but it is not intended to return all lands to their natural state. It does, however, imply that ecosystem management activities, regardless of the degree of human impact, must be conducted within the physical and biological capabilities of the land, based on an understanding of ecosystem function.

Climate Change and Ecosystem Management:

A changing climate means not only higher temperatures, but also changing and more variable precipitation patterns, higher CO2 concentrations, and unpredictable feedback between these processes. These changes will have a wide range of effects on species and communities, potentially leading to the extinction of many species, altered interactions between species, and the creation of new ecosystems while destroying existing ones.

Such disparities in responses among ecologically connected species have the potential to disrupt and dismantle ecological relationships and biotic communities. As a result of these diverse and unpredictable species-level reactions, an ecosystem may undergo a partial or complete transformation. Decoupling of predator-prey or plant-herbivore interactions may result in the extinction or increase of one or both species. Temperature and water regime changes may favor the increasing dominance of pioneer species, such as weedy plants. These changes can be gradual, involving slow changes in soil qualities or moisture regimes, or abrupt, as a result of disturbances such as fires or storms, and tolerance thresholds for various species.

Human well-being suffers as a result of ecosystem degradation, biodiversity loss, and changes in ecosystem services. Climate change’s effects on ecosystems are complex, threatening the biological resources and ecosystem services on which humanity depends. Temperature increases, climatic zone shifts, melting of snow and ice (another form of positive feedback), sea level rise, precipitation changes, droughts, floods, and other extreme weather events are among the drivers.

Source: Unsplash

Natural life and environmental sciences are constantly expanding our knowledge of the dynamics of environmental change processes. However, research on these processes has traditionally focused primarily on the biophysical elements, which are only one component of these complex and dynamic systems.

Previously, research was widely based on the assumption that anthropogenic actions have little influence on the functioning of these systems or are only sporadic disturbances that can be discounted for analysis purposes. In recent decades, there has been a growing recognition that human-environment interactions produce complex and dynamic socio-ecological systems with both anthropogenic and biophysical drivers at work.

Human societies define the boundaries and character of their environments, frame environmental problems, and devise “solutions” to them based on their perceptions of what constitutes the environment, what drives and constrains its dynamics, what causes environmental challenges, and what can be done to address them. The approach of “Human Dimensions Science” is to center the global environmental change debate on society, a viewpoint that frames current global problems as social and societal challenges.

Ecosystem Management, a type of sustainable development, is founded on a set of principles and includes elements that define its methodology. This new approach to natural resource management differs from traditional methods in that it is ecosystem-based, aiming for long-term sustainability, has a multi-species framework, integrates human activities and nature conservation, includes political, economic, and social values, and proposes socially acceptable solutions. Its implementation necessitates collaboration and communication among all parties involved, as well as public participation.

Authors are Executive and Associate Editor (The Environment Review).


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