Dr Stephen Willis said: "We looked at bird species across the whole network of protected areas in Africa and the results show that wildlife conservation areas will be essential for the future survival of many species of birds.
"Important Bird Areas will provide new habitats for birds that are forced to move as temperatures and rainfall change and food sources become scarce in the areas where they currently occur. Protected areas are a vital conservation tool to help birds adapt to climate change in the 21st century."
The findings show that the biodiversity of particular areas is likely to change significantly. The turnover of species in some sites could be as high as 50 per cent, as established species leave to find more suitable climes or new food supplies, and new species move in to an area. The adaptability of birds will be an important factor, the experts say.
Dr Stephen Willis said: "The results show that 90 per cent of priority species in Africa will find suitable climate somewhere in the network of protected areas in future. However, one in ten birds will have to find new places to live and breed so new sites will have to be added to the IBA network.
"The central regions of Africa should maintain many of their current species as long as the protected areas remain intact. By contrast, areas of the Afrotropical Highlands, which occur in countries such as Cameroon, South Africa and Ethiopia, will see enormous change with more than 40 per cent of species leaving."
The findings also show that some species are likely to struggle, and may even become extinct unless new populations can be established. A priority species might be lost from a particular IBA, but there may be other climatically suitable sites in the network for the species to move
|Contact: Carl Stiansen|