Ecosystem protection: a solution to climate change

Article from the December edition of UQ News – see the original article here.

Delegates to the climate change conference in Copenhagen have been told that ecosystem-based strategies offer cost-effective and sustainable solutions to climate change that can deliver multiple benefits.

This is according to a report from Dr Kerrie Wilson from UQ’s The Ecology Centre, who is attending Attending COP15 on the second day of plenary sessions.

“With many of the impacts of climate change already being felt, methods to adapt to climate change are a key focus of discussions at the climate change meeting in Copenhagen,” she said.

“Ecosystem-based approaches to climate change – referred to by some scientists as a ‘convenient solution to an inconvenient truth’ – are one mechanism on the negotiating table.”

Dr Wilson said the broader issue was the Reducing Emissions through Avoided Deforestation and Degradation mechanism (REDD) to reward nations and communities for voluntarily improving forest protection and management.

Greenhouse gas emissions from forests were caused by logging and conversion to agriculture, resulting in a release of stored carbon which was the largest source of emissions caused by humans, second to combustion of fossil fuels.

“The advisory group responsible for the technical support of mechanisms to lessen and adapt to climate change revealed optimism today that a decision on REDD will be made at this meeting,” she said.

“Acceptance of REDD as a viable means of reducing international emissions could offer a new platform and financing mechanism for protecting biodiversity, ecosystem services, and the livelihoods of those that depend on forests.”

Dr Wilson said representatives of developing nations were calling for enhanced capacity to promote readiness for REDD and secure funding commitments, along with acknowledgement of the role that indigenous communities can play in implementation and monitoring. The realities of REDD and issues surrounding corruption and law enforcement were also being openly discussed.

The original form of REDD was now being replaced by REDD +, where forest management, reforestation and carbon sequestration in other landscapes are also compensated.

With multiple objectives, and multiple ways to achieve these objectives, the careful planning and prioritisation for REDD implementation would become pivotal.

Dr Wilson said not everyone could be a winner and trade-offs between objectives were inevitable.

“Our research has proven that it is feasible to integrate the dual objective of conserving biodiversity and reducing the release of greenhouse gases. We can analyse in a transparent way the winners and losers, and thereby inform decision-making for REDD.”

Brief bio of Dr. Wilson
Dr Kerrie Wilson holds a degree in Environmental Science from The University of Queensland (top graduate in 1999, University Medallist). She obtained a DPhil in ecology from the University of Melbourne in 2004. Kerrie is author of approximately 50 scientific publications (including publications in Science and Nature) and one edited book. In 2009 she was awarded an Australian Leadership Award and an European Erasmus Mundus Fellowship. Kerrie has previously held leadership positions with non-government organisations including Director of Conservation for The Nature Conservancy Australia. Her research into the socio-economic aspects of conservation involves collaborations with national and international government and non-government organisations.

Media: Dr Kerrie Wilson (, +45-35-331-855 Copenhagen) or Tracey Franchi, School of Biological Sciences Communications Manager (+61-7-3365-4831).