The warming climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level. The past decade has witnessed a growing recognition of the inextricable link between climate change and biodiversity. Climate change and biodiversity are interconnected through climate change effects on biodiversity and through changes in biodiversity that affect climate change(1). The climate change is likely to become the dominant direct driver of biodiversity loss by the end of the century. As it is, climate change already forces biodiversity to adapt either by shifting habitat or by modifying life cycles.
Evidences of the impacts of the changing climate on biodiversity are gathered through three principal sources. The first uses direct observation of changes in components of biodiversity in nature (either recently or in the distant past) that can be clearly related to changes in climatic variables. Another means of gathering information are experimental studies using manipulations to elucidate responses to climate change. Finally, there are modelling studies where current understanding of the requirements and constraints on the distributions of species and ecosystems are combined with modelled changes in climatic variables to project the impacts of climate change and predict future distributions and changes in populations.
The implications of climate change for the ASEAN’s regions biodiversity resources are projected to be serious. Climate change will worsen the many factors that are already endangering biodiversity in Southeast Asia. These stressors will be magnified over time. Much uncertainty remains over the magnitude of climate change in the ASEAN region, and how this will affect biodiversity resources.
It is Southeast Asia’s less developed nations who are most vulnerable to climate change, as its impact is expected to further worsen poverty, particularly the earning capacity of the poor, and exacerbate the already inadequate provisions for health and livelihood.
Only ASEAN Heritage Parks (AHPs) in Cambodia, the Philippines, and Viet Nam are shown to be affected by past cyclone events. Endangered plants and animals are the most common components in almost all AHPs that are sensitive to climate change. Yet, until now only very limited attention has been given to address the climate change issues in most of the AHPs. Nonetheless, Mardiastutiet al., (2013) stated there are components in most of the AHP management plans that do not specifically address climate change but contribute to the reduction of sensitivity and vulnerability, such as that in Singapore’s SungeiBuloh Wetland Reserve.(2)
Biological diversity consisting of the different living organisms and the available goods and services are the life support system in which people depend on. The changing climate, however, brings great risks to biodiversity, resulting in loss of biological resources and threatening ecosystem sustainability. This change in climate may refer to the anthropogenic climate change which is caused by the human activities that eventually increase the atmospheric concentration of energy-trapping gases. Human activities including burning fossil fuels, industry and transportation cause an increase in carbon pollution levels. These result in rising temperatures and temperature extremes, changing rainfall patterns, rising sea levels and warming oceans, and increasing occurrence of extreme events like floods and heatwaves and weather.(3)
Climate change affects the individual organisms, populations, species distributions, and ecosystem composition and function both directly and indirectly. An example of direct change is increase in temperature and changes in precipitation, and sea level and storm surge in the case of marine and coastal ecosystems. Indirect change, on the other hand, is brought about by the intensity and frequency of climate change disturbance such as wildfires. But, then again, the general effect of human-induced climate change projected that habitat of many species move towards poleward or upward from their current locations. The species migrate at different rates through fragmented landscapes. Likewise, increasing number of species most likely vulnerable species would be at risk for extinction. The typical most vulnerable to extinction are those species with limited climatic ranges and/or restricted habitat requirements and/or small populations.
(1) Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (2009). Connecting Biodiversity and Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation: Report of the Second Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group on Biodiversity and Climate Change. Montreal, Technical Series No. 41, 126 pages.
(2) Simorangkir, D. and F. Pollisco, Jr. 2015. Conserving forest ecosystems and biodiversity for strengthening livelihood and climate change resiliency. XIV World Forestry Congress, Durban, South Africa, 7-11 September.
Current initiatives on mitigation and adaptation
Known as one of the regions that are most highly vulnerable to climate change, it is imperative for the ASEAN region to seek solutions aimed at adapting to climate change and ensuringresiliency. ASEAN Member States have expressed their commitment to make the region resilient to the impacts of climate change. Regional initiatives to address climate change including joint statements, declarations, road maps and action plans show political commitment at the regional and national levels.
Overall, commitments by ASEAN Member States to reduce emissions, plans, policies, and actions demonstrate that the urgent need to ensure resilience against climate change is recognized in the ASEAN region. Similar with the global assessment made by GBO-4, results in the ASEAN region show that while ASEAN Member States are on track to restore 15 percent of degraded ecosystems that contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation, it is uncertain whether the region will meet the target by 2020.
The way forward
As agreed upon during the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Environment in 2015, the ASCC Blueprint provides strategic guidance to address issues on the environment. Specifically on climate change, the ASEAN Member States need to provide national and local strategic action plans that complements the ASCC Blueprint that pertains to the 12 points relevant to climate change.
Furthermore, the AMS need to implement their plans identified in their National Biodiversity Strategic Action Plans (NBSAPs) specific to climate change. Local indicators that will contribute to the national status of Aichi Targets 10 and 15 may be developed. Target 10 indicators could be related to the change in the population of migratory bird species and monitoring of impacts of climate change and ocean acidification to vulnerable local species and habitats across ecosystems. For Target 15, local indicator could be related to population trends of forest-dependent flora and fauna such as some species of rattan, bryophytes, pteridophytes, raptors, amphibians, and butterflies, among others.
AMS have to continue developing innovative means to adapt and mitigate negative impact of climate change on biodiversity.
The ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity will promote new knowledge, practices, and technologies for the region to adapt and mitigate negative impact of climate change on biodiversity.
Programme Development and Implementation Unit