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EnviroAtlas

EnviroAtlas Benefit Category: Climate Stabilization

Ecosystems help maintain a stable climate

Stressors and drivers of change

Health impacts and benefits

  • Climate stabilization is important for the safety and security of Earth's species.
  • Ecosystem protection, management, and carbon sequestration strategies help slow the current rate of changing climate averages and variability, buffering humans from the negative aspects of such change. This buffer also provides additional time to develop the technology needed to take advantage of the potentially positive aspects of such climatic changes. 
  • In the near term, for instance, trees and other vegetation can help mitigate heat-related hazards by providing local cooling and reducing indoor temperatures through shading.
  • Local temperature reduction may decrease hospital admissions and mortality due to heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses.
  • Careful use and management of vegetation can also regulate the flow of water, and in some cases, act as a barrier from physical damage, protecting people from property loss.
  • Sea-level change in response to climate warming is a potential threat along the Mid-Atlantic and portions of the Gulf Coast6. Slowing the rate of sea-level rise could help maintain the quality of drinking water supplies by reducing the rate of salt water intrusionHelpsalt water intrusionDisplacement of fresh or ground water by the advance of salt water due to its greater density, usually in coastal and estuarine areas. into aquifers and the upstream movement of salt-wedges in rivers and streams.
  • Slowing sea-level rise through carbon sequestration could also provide additional time to move water supply infrastructure and treatment facilities, or to develop alternative treatment technologies.
  • In the longer term, increasing the stores of carbon in soil is one way to increase soil fertility and productivity. By slowing the rate of change, plant breeders have the opportunity to develop new commercial crop varieties that can flourish under these new climate patterns.
  • Natural plant species have evolved and adapted to a slowly changing climate, but they can be severely challenged by more rapidly changing environmental conditions. Species that are highly adapted to certain local environments may have particular difficulty adapting to such change. However, slowing the rate of changing patterns of averages and variability offers the opportunity for many species in various locations to maintain their current levels of biodiversity through adaptation and migration to different areas, either within or outside their original ranges.
  • Encouraging a less rapidly changing climate helps maintain stability in biodiversity, which underpins all services that Earth's ecosystems provide. 
  • For more information on the health benefits of mitigating heat hazards, explore the Heat Hazard Mitigation portion of the Eco-Health Relationship Browser.

References 

  1. IPCC. Special report on carbon dioxide capture and storage: CH 6 ExitAccessed March 2013.
  2. Nowak D J and D E Crane. 2002. Carbon storage and sequestration by urban trees in the USA. Environmental Pollution, 116 (3): p 381-9.
  3. EPA. GHG emissions: Transportation. Accessed March 2013.
  4. EPA. GHG emission: Agriculture. Accessed June 2015.
  5. EPA. GHG emissions: Land use change. Accessed March 2013.
  6. EPA. Climate change: Indicators. Accessed June 2015.