The Importance of Being Permanent: Permanent Protected Areas as Natural Solutions for Climate Change
Current protected areas are projected to have very different species, ecosystems, and ecological functions under various climate change scenarios. Despite the potential for significant ecological transformation over time, permanent protected areas remain one of the most effective ways to conserve biodiversity in a changing climate. They are valuable natural assets that contribute to climate change adaptation and mitigation while providing a range of additional environmental, social, and economic benefits. They protect a great deal of geophysical and biological diversity, and they are spaces for species and ecosystems to adapt in place. Permanence sustains the ability to continue to practice Indigenous ways of life, maintaining cultural resilience into the future. Maintaining current protected areas and creating new permanent protected areas remains critical to our adaptability as anthropogenic climate change progresses.
Making the business case for permanent protected areas is an important step in the planning process. Complementary strategies have been proposed to meet the climate change challenge. Examples include focusing on potential climate refugia for new protected areas, adjusting protected area boundaries, and establishing temporal conservation measures to meet short-term life stage needs of species. These alternative strategies, however, cannot replace permanent protected areas. The importance of maintaining permanent protected areas must also be emphasized.
The Importance of Being Permanent Quick Facts Table contains summary information, quotations, and additional resources that underline the importance of permanence for various social and ecological priorities (e.g. biodiversity, research, ecosystem services, cultural practices, etc.) in the face of climate change. The table covers eight protected area topics and three key messages for use by those who wish to communicate the value of permanent protected areas as part of a natural solution to climate change adaptation. It was developed by members of the Canadian Parks Council Climate Change Working Group, a collaborative group consisting of members from Canada’s national, provincial, and territorial parks and protected areas agencies.
In a changing climate, permanent protected areas are more important than ever.
That’s because permanent protected areas conserve…
· … geophysical diversity, protecting enduring landforms and abiotic components
· … ecological integrity, protecting essential ecosystem functions and processes
· … biological diversity, protecting representative ecosystems and species
· … ecological resilience, protecting nature’s ability to withstand disturbance
· … climate refugia, protecting spaces where changes will be more gradual
· … living laboratories, protecting benchmarks for research
· .. ecosystem services and natural infrastructure, protecting essential services for communities
· … places that engage and inspire people, protecting human health, wellbeing, and connection to nature