Countries need to increase co-operation over conservation to protect birds and other wildlife in an era of climate change, according to this continental-scale study published February 1, 2011 in Conservation Biology.
An international research team led by Professor Brian Huntley and Dr. Stephen Willis, School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Durham University, looked at how native African bird species will fare in 803 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) across the continent, if climate change continues as predicted. Birds are a key indicator for conservationists because they respond quickly to change and are relatively easily monitored. IBAs are sites of highest conservation importance for birds, some of which, but by no means all, are existing protected areas.
The team looked at projected future ranges of species of birds and how these coincide with the current network of priority bird sites across Africa. They predict that one third of the IBAs will undergo significant upheaval this century, in terms of the species they contain, due to climate change.
The study shows that there are substantial geographical gaps in the current conservation network and that international cooperation is essential to protect species.
Dr. David Hole, Climate Change Researcher with research partner, Conservation International, said: “Policy action to encourage practices that will make it easier for species to move through the wider landscape will be critical, such as conservation-friendly farming and agroforestry, to ensure species can reach newly climatically suitable areas as climate changes.”
“There’s a real opportunity here since these types of measures, together with adaptive management of existing Important Bird Areas could not only aid conservation but also help to mitigate climate change by conserving or restoring natural habitats, as well as guiding us to preferred localities for climate mitigation schemes. It’s about trying to find those win-win situations.”
Areas of High turnover, i.e. high immigration and emigration:
Kalahari-Gemsbok National Park (South Africa) – 79% turnover
Hobatere (Namibia) – ensemble turnover 70%
Areas of little change:
Kilombero Valley (Tanzania) – 95% persistence
Waza National Park (Cameroon) – 98% persistence
Networks of sites of high importance for conservation of biological diversity are a cornerstone of current conservation strategies but are fixed in space and time. As climate change progresses, substantial shifts in species’ ranges may transform the ecological community that can be supported at a given site. Thus, some species in an existing network may not be protected in the future or may be protected only if they can move to sites that in future provide suitable conditions. We developed an approach to determine appropriate climate-change adaptation strategies for individual sites within a network that was based on projections of future changes in the relative proportions of emigrants (species for which a site becomes climatically unsuitable), colonists (species for which a site becomes climatically suitable), and persistent species (species able to remain within a site despite the climatic change). Our approach also identifies key regions where additions to a network could enhance its future effectiveness. Using the sub-Saharan African Important Bird Area (IBA) network as a case study, we found that appropriate conservation strategies for individual sites varied widely across sub-Saharan Africa, and key regions where new sites could help increase network robustness varied in space and time. Although these results highlight the potential difficulties within any planning framework that seeks to address climate-change adaptation needs, they demonstrate that such planning frameworks are necessary, if current conservation strategies are to be adapted effectively, and feasible, if applied judiciously.
Hole, D. G., Huntley, B., Arinaitwe, J., Butchart, S. H. M., Collingham, Y. C., Fishpool, L. D. C., Pain, D. J. and Willis, S. G. , Toward a Management Framework for Networks of Protected Areas in the Face of Climate Change. Conservation Biology, No. Doi: 10.1111/J.1523-1739.2010.01633.X