CR 06:179-191 (1996)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/cr006179

Potential impacts of climate change on ecosystems: a review of implications for policymakers and conservation biologists

Markham A

Climate change represents a significant threat to global biodiversity and ecosystem integrity. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which has been ratified by 118 nations and came into force in 1994, has amongst its aims the protection of ecosystems. This paper reviews the relevant text in the Convention and gives an overview of scientific efforts to provide policymakers with the necessary information on ecosystem impacts. The sensitivity of different types of ecosystem to climatic change is discussed and the concepts of ecological limits and thresholds are addressed and examples given. The paper concludes there is a need for a better understanding of the impacts of climate change on ecosystem resilience in order to maintain biological diversity and respond to the needs of policymakers in implementing the UNFCCC. Recommendations are made for increased research effort, including increased resolution of climate models, better predictive capacity at a regional level for within- and between-year rainfall patterns, seasonality and extreme events. Collaborative monitoring programs, including long-term ecological research along climate gradients, are proposed for 4 biomes: coastal wetlands, montane ecosystems, coral reefs and Arctic ecosystems.


Adaptation · Biodiversity · Climate · Conservation · Critical levels · Ecosystem impacts · Global warming · Protected areas · UNFCCC


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