Principal Investigator Dr Rob Marchant, also from York's Environment Department, said: "Plants have long been over-looked in the design of protected area systems despite their role as the foundation of all terrestrial ecosystems, harnessing the Sun's energy and providing nutrients for the entire food chain.
"As conservation continues to develop a 'biodiversity for livelihoods' mandate, information on plant distributions and the ways in which ecosystems will respond to future climatic and economic developments is crucial."
Acacia includes a number of species that dominate extensive areas of East African woodland, wooded grassland and bushland. It occurs across a wide range of ecosystems, from arid deserts to mountain forests, and ranges from small shrubs to large trees.
The researchers used distribution modelling to predict the present day distribution of Acacia in East Africa and to establish how well members of the species are conserved under the current protected network. They also used regional climate forecasts to estimate the potential impact of climate change on two Acacia species of differing ecology, with one mountain species' range shrinking away from the highest designation of protected areas.
Dr Marshall said: "The question for managers is how best to deal with the potential mismatch between biodiversity and the current protected area network, both now and in the future. The strongest and most effective means of biodiversity conservation has consistently been in the establishment of protected areas.
"While new conservation efforts do not necessarily have to follow the traditional format of protected areas and should involve working closely with local people, the most important factor is that they are based on solid science underpinned by excellent data."
The research team are now carrying out ground surveys in remote and inhospitable locations to test the predictions of their work. The ini
|Contact: Caron Lett|
University of York