Nairobi, 8 December 2017
Ahead of International Mountain Day (11 December) The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg has committed vital support to UN Environment’s upcoming programme to preserve threatened mountain species. A pledge of €9 million was announced at the third United Nations Environment Assembly that took place in Nairobi on 4-6 December.
Mountain species such as the iconic snow leopards, mountain gorillas and Bengal tigers inhabit mountainous regions which stand to change significantly in the next 50 years due to climate change. The species adapt to habitat loss by changing movement patterns, which may render protected areas ineffective, exposing the animals to new threats and create a mismatch of prey and predators.
In response, a new ‘Vanishing Treasures’ programme led by UN Environment and the Government of Luxembourg will address direct pressures from climate change as well as indirect ones posed by how local communities react to it.
“As climate change intensifies, icons of nature are being pushed to the brink. Yet ecosystem-based solutions can help preserve wildlife and the livelihoods of communities, and Luxembourg’s amazing support will help drive this forward,” said UN Environment Executive Director Erik Solheim.
Climate and human-related threats
In the Himalayas, global warming is happening 75% faster than the global average. This is expected to decimate snow leopard habitats by two thirds by 2070, including by more than 80% in Bhutan, Myanmar and Nepal.
The natural habitat of this emblematic species is further squeezed by livestock grazing moving uphill due to climate change and encroaching on the homes of snow leopards.
Bengal tigers found in this region are already threatened by shrinking and fragmented habitats. Local communities are now increasingly faced with climate-related impacts, such as dried water ponds. This is likely to lead to an intensification of human-wildlife conflict aggravated by economic development such as tourism and hydropower.
Meanwhile, just 880 mountain gorillas remain in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Although the number of mountain gorillas has increased, a new conservation challenge is arising.
The mountain gorilla has a small population, highly restricted geographic range and low reproductive rate. It will struggle to change habitat, leading to an increased risk of conflict and spread of disease between them and people.
The new programme led by UN Environment and Luxembourg will focus on improving and sharing knowledge for innovative ecosystem- based approaches to climate adaptation.
Ecosystem-based approaches support action to help species and ecosystems adapt to potentially harmful change. This could include creating movement corridors for species and restoring fauna.
The overall aim is therefore to better understand the animals’ vulnerability to climate change and the ecosystem services being affected. In the long-term, by working with local communities the programme also aims to promote alternative land-use practices that can contribute to climate mitigation and reduce pressure on species living close to the communities.
“Promoting nature-based solutions as part of a wider climate change strategy is crucial, as this contributes to both the protection of our nature and species, as well as the wellbeing of humans depending on them” says Carole Dieschbourg, Minister for the Environment of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg
A wildlife inquiry is furthermore being launched to better understand links between climate change and species conservation of those species, to enhance management of protected areas and better address climate change adaptation of the animals.