Nature conservation is climate protection

Intact ecosystems are carbon reservoirs

Intact ecosystems protect the climate in a natural way. For example, forests, oceans, soils, moors and green spaces are natural CO2 reservoirs that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere over the long term. In addition, intact ecosystems help us to be better prepared against the consequences of global warming such as heavy rain, floods or heat.

Protecting nature is thus always also direct climate protection. Peatlands, for example, are among the most important carbon reservoirs in the world. Although they cover only three percent of the world's land area, they store 30 % of the carbon on land - about twice as much as forests. But intact forests are also important components of natural climate protection. They store carbon over long periods of time, both in their biomass and in the forest soils, and also represent important climate adaptation functions. Studies estimate that by protecting, restoring and improving the management of forests, we can mitigate up to 20% of the current climate crisis by 2050.

Speaking of soils, on average there is a full 8% humus in the soils of grasslands - meaning these areas sequester more carbon than the soils under forests. Grasslands are therefore probably the most underestimated carbon sinks on our planet. According to the European Union, grasslands in Europe sequester several million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year. Storing carbon in the soil with the help of intact, regeneratively used meadows and pastures is thus an easily implementable means of climate protection.

Destruction of nature promotes climate change

Human activities have so far severely altered around 75% of the Earth's land surface and 66% of its ocean areas. Forests, for example, are being cleared for agriculture, peatlands are being drained for housing development and grasslands are having to make way for new industrial sites.

The problem is that as much carbon as intact ecosystems store, they also release when they are destroyed. Moreover, the destruction of natural habitats reduces their carbon storage capacity. For example, according to studies, the drainage of peatlands, the conversion of grasslands and the clearing of forests have caused about a quarter of anthropogenic CO2 emissions in recent decades. After the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation and forest degradation is the largest source of CO2 emissions worldwide, accounting for about 13%.

Considering nature and climate protection together

To counter the climate crisis, the focus must not only be on reducing greenhouse gases, but also on protecting and restoring ecosystems and thus natural carbon sinks such as forests, peatlands or grasslands. According to a recent study by the Intergovernmental Panel on Biological Diversity (IPBES) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a renaturation of just 15% of the current usable land could be sufficient to remove and bind up to 300 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in the long term.

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