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Current EU policies are unlikely to jointly foster carbon sequestration and protect biodiversity

A recently published paper by a researchers group highlights important conflicts between existing European policies to mitigate climate change by increasing carbon sequestration on the one hand, and grassland biodiversity conservation on the other.

The common assumption behind current environmental policies is that increasing forest area, besides providing climate benefits by increasing carbon sequestration, will also support biodiversity, thus making afforestation a “win-win scenario”. However, recent evidence suggests that joined climate and biodiversity benefits are strongly context-dependent and the outcome of afforestation is often highly questionable.

Given that EU is often observed as a leader in global environmental politics, it is legitimate to ask whether the current EU environmental policies acknowledge these uncertainties and recognize and mitigate the potential conflicts between carbon management and biodiversity conservation.

Conflict of interest

The researchers of the Geography Institute of the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, together with an international, interdisciplinary research group from universities of Rome, Brno, Paris and Amsterdam, tried to find an answer to this question. The results of their work were recently reported in the scientific journal ‘Biological Conservation’ and are concerning: important conflicts exist between policies to mitigate climate change and increase carbon sequestration on the one hand, and to conserve biodiversity on the other. For instance, although grasslands managed at low intensity contribute substantially to biodiversity conservation and carbon storage, there is the risk that the EU may be paying to maintain these grasslands in some areas, while also be paying to convert similar grasslands into forests in other areas.

Burrascano, S., Chytrý, M., Kuemmerle, T., Giarrizzo, E., Luyssaert, S., Sabatini, F.M. & Blasi, C. 2016. Current European policies are unlikely to jointly foster carbon sequestration and protect biodiversity. Biological Conservation, 201: 370-376.

DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2016.08.005 Final version published online: 13-AUG-2016

Additional Information

Contact

Tobias Kümmerle
Geography Institute of the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Phone: 030 2093 9372
Tobias.kuemmerle@geo.hu-berlin.de
Skype: Tobias.kuemmerle

Sabina Burrascano
University or Rome
Phone: 00390649912845
Sabina.burrascano@uniroma1.it
 

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