Conservation biologists from UC San Diego are collaborating with scientists from the African Conservation Centre and other institutions to map patterns of biodiversity and land use in East Africa in unprecedented detail. Their maps, combined with climate models, will project how climate change will alter biodiversity and help to shape policy for setting aside conservation easements.
Wildlife, people and livestock have weathered past variation in climate by shifting their seasonal migration patterns though the varied of ecological zones in the Great Rift Valley, which runs through the center of Kenya and Tanzania.
"When you go from the bottom of the rift, it's almost desert. By the time you get up to the top, no more than 15-20 km away, it's rainforest," said David Western, adjunct professor of biology at UCSD, director of the African Conservation Centre in Nairobi and former director of Kenya Wildlife Service. "Previously this was communal land where people moved with the seasons and they moved with changing climates."
Now, as climate change is expected to shift the balance between habitats in this region, increased farming has fragmented the landscape, Western said. "It's removed the highland grazing for both livestock and wildlife. The crop residues can keep the livestock going, but it's a complete lockout for wildlife."
The project will identify areas that, if protected, would allow both wildlife and pastoralists to move to more favorable conditions as climate shifts. "What we want to do is identify key pathways where, working with landowners, you can actually keep the land open, through a conservation easement," Western said.
To determine how the centers of biological richness are likely to shift, UCSD biology assistant professor Walter Jetz and Daniel Kissling, a postdoctoral fellow, have mapped the ranges of 2,700 species of birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles across all of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rw
|Contact: Susan Brown|
University of California - San Diego