Climate Change Impacts on Biodiversity Pose Challenge for California

February 12, 2008 |   | Contact: M. Daniel DeCillis

Table adapted from the NatureServe report States of the Union: Ranking America’s Biodiversity (2002).

The potential effects of climate change have driven numerous efforts to control greenhouse gas emissions. However, while many analyses of these effects focus on issues of energy and water supply, California’s land management agencies also face a myriad of complex issues related to climate change impacts on biodiversity.

Biodiversity, the variety of life in a given ecosystem from microscopic organisms on up, can be adversely affected by a range of factors including habitat destruction, invasive exotic species introduced into ecosystems by humans, pollution, human population growth and resultant increase in consumption, and over-harvesting. Moreover, biodiversity issues on land and in the ocean involve additional layers of state and federal policy. CCST’s February Council meeting will focus on state and federal cooperation on the oceans and climate change related issues.

“As is often the case, the problem is one of information overload at the state level,” said Susan Hackwood, CCST executive director. “We need to ensure that we are not only gathering the right information, but that this information can be effectively and actively disseminated to those who need it.”

For example, the state is considering coastal wetland restoration for a site in the central San Francisco Bay. The restoration would cost $35 million over five years. However, it is possible that a rise in sea level over the next 25-35 years could turn the salt grass/pickle weed marsh to a mud flat, negating the restoration efforts; alternatively, it is possible that sufficient new sediment will be deposited to offset the rising water level.

“How much money and effort are we willing to pay for restoration, and what if anything can be done to design marshes to be sustainable for decades to come?” said Hackwood. “Effective planning depends on good information. We hope to work with the Biodiversity Council to help the state plan effectively.”

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