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How to Stop Climate Change: Intact Nature is the Key

First Posted: Jan 28, 2016 01:24 PM EST

Intact nature may actually be the best defense against climate change. Scientists have found that worldwide responses to climate change could leave people worse off in the future, but that large pieces of intact forest and other "natural" locations may help offset climate change.

"In response to climate change, many local communities around the world are rapidly adjusting their livelihood practices to cope with climate change, sometimes with catastrophic implications for nature," said Tara Martin, one of the researchers, in a news release.

Conservation reserves are actually being used as drought reserve to feed livestock. In addition, many forests in the Congo Basin in Africa are being cleared for agriculture in response to drought, and coral reefs are being destroyed to build sea walls from the low-lying islands in Melanesia.

"These are just few of the human responses to climate change that, if left unchallenged, may leave us worse off in the future due to their impacts on nature," said Martin. "Functioning and intact, forests, grasslands, wetlands and coral reefs represent our greatest protection against floods and storms."

Intact, native forests reduce the frequency and severity of floods. In addition, coral reefs can reduce wave energy by an average of 97 percent, providing a more cost-effective defense from storm surges than engineered structures. In addition, coastal ecosystems such as mangroves and tidal marshes provided a more cost-effective and ecologically sound alternative to buffering storms than conventional coastal engineering solutions.

The findings show the importance of creating strategies that are ecosystem based or do not destroy nature.

The findings are published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

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