Note: This is the 1997 edition of UNEP's Global Environment Outlook. If you are interested in more recent information, please see the 2000 and 2002 editions.

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
Global  Environment Outlook-1 - The Web version

Chapter 4: Looking to the Future

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Pressures on Natural Habitats

Protecting Natural Habitats

The analysis in this section underlines the important impact on biodiversity of economic and population growth, with the associated need for the conversion of non-domesticated land to agricultural land in order to satisfy food demands, and of projected climate change. Remaining natural habitats can only be protected effectively if appropriate measures are taken to allow increased agricultural production by means other than the conversion of natural lands.

Although area protection, for instance, in nature reserves, appears to be a prerequisite for conserving nature and its diversity, climate change will be a serious threat if these areas are isolated and fragmented. It is estimated that climate change would alter the vegetation in 44 per cent of the world's current conservation areas (Alcamo et al.,1995). The natural vegetation in these areas might be unable to adapt to these changed climate conditions (Alcamo et al.,1995). Migration is a common response of many species to climate change, and hence connections (such as vegetation corridors and bridges) between natural areas are needed to reduce biodiversity losses. The design of Regional Ecological Corridors of interconnected natural areas (that is, linking remaining natural areas) might be an efficient response to this problem (as is being done in the Middle America Biological Corridor GEF project, currently in its preparatory phase).

An integrated, cross-sectoral approach to dealing with the impact of increasing food demands and climate change on biodiversity appears to be essential. Linking the assessment work conducted by the different secretariats responsible for international conventions is a first step in this direction.

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