The Urgent Need for Climate Change Adaptation and Biodiversity Conservation in Africa

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Originally published in Nation Africa

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Africa, like many regions around the world, is facing the undeniable impacts of climate change. The continent’s diverse ecosystems and rich biodiversity are particularly vulnerable to these changes, posing a significant threat to the livelihoods and well-being of millions of people who depend on natural resources for their survival. From prolonged droughts and extreme weather events to rising temperatures and sea levels, the effects of climate change are already being felt across the continent.

According to a Frontiers Study, 20 per cent of Africa’s land surface (6.6 million km2) is degraded, an area twice the size of India. While Africa’s population is projected to quadruple by 2100, the effects of climate change will be severe and environmental conflict is projected to rise sharply. These changes will not only severely impact biodiversity but also the life and livelihoods of Africans. For example, by 2100, more than half of Africa’s bird and mammal species could be lost and the productivity of Africa’s lakes could decline by 20–30 per cent.

Conservation and biodiversity are intricately linked to climate change. Rising temperatures, altered precipitation patterns and extreme events pose a significant threat to wildlife, ecosystems, and delicate habitats. Many species face challenges in adapting to these rapid changes, leading to shifts in migration patterns, altered breeding cycles and even extinction risks. Climate change adaptation efforts must, therefore, prioritise the preservation of biodiversity and the protection of critical ecosystems, ensuring a sustainable environment for future generations.

While the direct impacts of climate change on ecosystems and biodiversity are well-documented, the indirect consequences resulting from human coping responses are often overlooked. Recent findings from 650 surveys conducted by the Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group (ABCG) and partners in 19 communities throughout sub-Saharan Africa revealed a concerning fact – over a third of the climate change coping strategies employed in these communities could potentially have a negative impact on biodiversity. This highlights the urgency of identifying and implementing adaptation interventions that not only help communities adapt to climate change but also protect and sustain biodiversity.

Recognising the critical importance of biodiversity conservation and management in economic development, social and environmental well-being, and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in Africa, ABCG and the Society for Conservation Biology, Africa section, have signed a crucial Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). The purpose of this MoU is to guide their joint efforts in supporting the climate change actions through research from scientific data on the African continent and globally.

Additionally, the Society for Conservation Biology’s 31st International Congress for Conservation Biology held in Kigali, Rwanda from July 23-27, 2023, will serve as a pivotal moment for advancing climate change adaptation discussions in Africa. This congress brought together conservationists, scientists, policymakers, and stakeholders from across the globe to deliberate on critical environmental challenges, with climate change adaptation at the forefront. The event provided a platform for sharing groundbreaking research, innovative approaches, and success stories, fostering cross-continental collaboration and accelerating the implementation of effective adaptation strategies.

ABCG took the opportunity to present a paper titled, “Assessing Community Responses to Climate Change and Impacts on Biodiversity: A 3-year study in Sub-Saharan Africa.” This paper highlights the importance of understanding the interplay between climate change coping strategies and their potential impact on biodiversity, providing valuable insights for developing context-specific adaptation measures. 

It also highlights documented results on how communities are coping with climate change recorded through a thematic working group, Managing Global Change Impacts on Biodiversity. The study done in 11 African countries namely Cameroon, Gabon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Namibia, Madagascar, Mozambique, Uganda and Zimbabwe also documents the potential impacts of these responses on biodiversity to provide knowledge that can guide adaptation strategies towards improving conservation outcomes under future climatic conditions. Together with communities, ABCG has identified options, prioritised and initiated on the ground projects to address climate-driven impacts on livestock, agriculture and fisheries communities.

The challenges posed by climate change in Africa are immense, but through collective action, scientific discussion, and knowledge exchange, we can forge a path towards a more sustainable future.

By fostering collaboration and embracing science-driven solutions, we can transcend the challenges of climate change and create a resilient and thriving Africa for generations to come. Let us unite in this noble cause and take decisive action to ensure a sustainable and climate-resilient future for the continent we call home.

Read the article: Climate change adaptation in Africa calls for scientific dialogue, Nation Africa, July 31, 2023