Most people reading this post realize the dangers of climate change. But how many understand how land conservation mitigates the effects of climate change? In this post, we will discuss how land conservation helps with carbon sequestration, preventing significant greenhouse gas emissions, providing habitats for wildlife, and building communities resilient to the effects of climate change.
- Carbon sequestration
Carbon sequestration is the long-term storage of carbon in plants, soils, geologic formations, and the ocean. Carbon sequestration occurs both naturally and because of anthropogenic activities and typically refers to the storage of carbon that has the immediate potential to become carbon dioxide gas.
Healthy landscapes and ecosystems are natural and efficient carbon sinks, storing carbon in plants and soils. Land conservation ensures that this land will continue to sequester carbon, or store carbon in one place. Plants use greenhouse gases (including atmospheric carbon) during photosynthesis and, in turn, remove these gases from the atmosphere, trapping them within plant tissues and into the ground. By conserving and restoring tracts of land with trees, grasses, and shrubs, we are increasing carbon storage and allowing plants to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
- Preventing significant greenhouse gas emissions
In fact, land conservation offers a double benefit for the climate. The Land Trust Alliance states that land conservation not only helps absorb greenhouse gases; it also prevents significant greenhouse gas emissions that would result from development — including deforestation, construction and the additional driving required by poorly planned growth.
- Providing habitats for wildlife
Land conservation increases wildlife habitat and improves plant and animal biodiversity. The Wilderness Society states that the protection of pieces of interconnected land or endangered landscapes can give species a better chance of weathering temperature shifts and other changes. By prioritizing the conservation of resilient areas (microclimates), which are more resistant to the effects of climate change, we preserve critical habitats. Resilient areas often include forested, hilly landscapes, which help buffer plants and animals from regional climate shifts. Focusing on resiliency ensures that the land we bring with us into the future is best equipped to withstand the challenges of a changing climate.
- Building communities resilient to the effects of climate change
Not only does land conservation result in resilient habitats – it also results in resilient communities. Climate adaptation helps communities adapt to the effects of climate change that are already happening and that are expected to accelerate. For example, preserved land could buffer a nearby neighborhood from heavy storms, reducing loss of life and property. Preserved land also safeguards clean water. According to the Waldron Report, protected areas also have multiple economic benefits, including nature tourism income, the provision of clinics, education and other forms of support to local communities, improved health outcomes (click here to visit our Nature Rx webpage), and avoidance of catastrophic losses due to the degradation of nature.
So how can you contribute to land conservation efforts that help with carbon sequestration, preventing significant greenhouse gas emissions, providing habitats for wildlife, and building communities resilient to the effects of climate change? Well, land conservation is what The Conservation Foundation does every day. We can all do more together than we can alone. Join our collective momentum – Become a member today!
Feel free to let us know of additional ideas you have on how land conservation helps mitigate the negative impacts of climate change.
By Steve Stawarz, Oak Brook
DuPage County Advisory Council Member