New UN environment report tackles 'mismatches' and other emerging concerns

Frontiers 2022 Rapport (banner)
© UNEP

New UN environment report tackles 'mismatches' and other emerging concerns

News

The latest UN Environment Frontiers Report has been launched in the Kenyan capital Nairobi. One of the chapters in Noises, Blazes and Mismatches: Emerging issues of environmental concern deals with changes in nature's rythms due to climate change. Author of that chapter is NIOO's Marcel Visser. 

For more than 10 years, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has worked on identifying and drawing attention to emerging issues of environmental concern.

'Emerging' in this case means that although some issues are local and relatively small-scale for the time being, they have the potential to become issues of regional or global concern if not addressed early.

The report presents current scientific knowledge in a way that is accessible and that connects science with policy makers and with politics.

Marcel Visser

Concerns

The report focuses on three areas of concern. They're each given a chapter in which UNEP signals both the environmental issues at stake and possible solutions for effective and timely responses.

1.    Listening to cities: From noisy environments to positive soundscapes
2.    Wildfires under climate change: A burning issue
3.    Phenology: Climate change is shifting the rhythm of nature

Mismatches

"What makes this an important report", says co-author and NIOO-researcher Marcel Visser (Department of Animal Ecology), "is that it presents current scientific knowledge on a number of topics in a way that is accessible and that connects science with policy makers and with politics." The chapter that Marcel Visser contributed on Phenology looks at the increasing likelihood of 'mismatches' in nature as a result of climate change.

"Timing is critical in the natural world", writes Visser. "Phenology examines the timing of recurring life-cycle stages, driven by environmental forces, and how interacting species respond to changes in timing within an ecosystem. [....] Because temperature is such a strong influence on these cues, phenological shifts over the past decades are among the most visible consequences of global climate change."

Examples in the chapter include shifts in the blooming of cherry blossom over 1200 years, and the well-known issue faced by NIOO's 'model species', the great tit: when the peak abundance of caterpillars on oak trees moves forward because of warming trends, the birds are left without enough food for their young. That's despite their own efforts to advance their egg-laying.

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Images
  • Photo: UNEP
  • Photo: UNEP
  • Photo: UNEP

Solutions

Possible solutions are also part of the Frontiers 2022 report, to stop these concerns from becoming major issues in the (near) future. Recommendations to tackle 'mismatches' include:

  • Restore habitats, conserve biodiversity and build biological corridors to enhance ecological connectivity
  • The more genetic diversity a species has, the greater the chance it can successfully adapt to climate change
  • The maintenance of ecological integrity and habitat connectivity is vital to a species' survival
  • Adjusting protected-area boundaries as species' ranges shift helps strengthen their adaptive capacity

...but the best way to effectively reduce ecological damage from mismatched phenological shifts - according to the report and its authors - is still to rapidly reduce carbon emissions worldwide.

Watch the launch of the UNEP report from Nairobi