Agrobiodiversity and climate change
There is no doubt anymore, that the global climate changes. Increase in temperature, changes in the rainfall pattern, the increase of extreme weather conditions and increase of greenhouse gas emissions will have direct effects on the biodiversity. Climate change will cause changes of the natural distribution range of species, it will influence ecosystem structures and functions as well as growth and reproduction rates, thus changing the entire ecological network of habitats and landscapes. The rather high speed of the climate change makes it difficult for plant and animal species to adapt to the new conditions. Thus according to some experts the climate change could be the major threat for biodiversity.
It is hard to predict, what risks are posed to agriculture and agrobiodiversity by the climate change. In general, there will be significant effects on agriculture with globally regional differences. Already today the effects of climate change are obvious in the poorer regions of this world, that suffer from dramatic yield loss caused by drought or flood.
First effects of the climate change can already be seen in agriculture of regions of temperate climate conditions. In animal husbandry the climate change-related rise in vector-borne diseases, poses a risk to diversity of breeds. One example is the spread of blue tongue disease in sheep, cattle and goats, that is transmitted by a mosquito that originates from Southern Europe.
However, the effects are not always that dramatic. The increase in temperature in particular may offer opportunities for the use of new species and varieties like the cultivation of the Kiwi fruit in Germany or more thermophile grapevine varieties.
Agrobiodiversity contributes to climate protection
As the climate is already changing, the great challenge is now, to react responsible and forward-looking to the changes. In this process agrobiodiversity may play a crucial role. Only with the use of the potentials, that agrobiodiversity offers, it will be possible to adapt agriculture and forestry to the changing environmental conditions. Suitable breeds, varieties and populations can only be developed by using genetic resources. Already today, characteristics that will gain importance in future like resistance to drought and heat, are taken into consideration in plant breeding.
The use of renewable resources will gain importance as one measure of climate protection, because it can be used as a substitute energy source in place of fossil fuels, and - a sustainable production provided - may reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Agrobiodiversity offers great innovation potential and may contribute significantly by exploitation and utilisation of new crops. However, the cultivation of renewable resources might have negative impacts on agrobiodiversity. Thus the challenge is to look very carefully at the sustainability of the cultivation of renewable resources.
Services provided by species and ecosystems can serve to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture, such as carbon storage and regulation of water and energy supply. Sustainable production systems can serve to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The long-term storage of carbon reserves in forests and farmed soils also offers potential for emission reduction.
Today, existing knowledge on the risks arising from climate change remains inadequate. There is thus a need for better understanding of the complex interrelationships between climate change and biodiversity. There is urgent need for action inter alia for the identification and assessment of the impacts of climate change on agrobiodiversity, for the development of a strategy to deal with the impacts of climate change in forestry and for the promotion of climate change-focused innovation in plant breeding.