MOMBASA, Kenya (AP) — Devastating floods in South Africa this week, as well as other extreme weather events across the continent linked to human-caused climate change, are putting marine and terrestrial wildlife species at risk, according to biodiversity experts.
Africa has already faced several weather-related problems in the past year: ongoing fatal flooding follows relentless cyclones in the southextreme temperatures in the western and northern regions, and a debilitating drought currently affecting eastern, central and the Horn of Africa.
Conservation and wildlife groups say it’s critical to protect species from these climate change-related weather events.
“Climate change is altering ecosystems and affecting the survival and suitability of species to live in their usual habitats,” said Shyla Raghav, who heads Conservation International’s climate change division. “Massive disruption of ecological stability will occur if adequate adaptation and mitigation measures are not implemented. It is necessary to incorporate climatic tests of our protected areas. In this way, we increase the resilience of nature”.
Multiple species, including Africa’s famous “big five” land animals and other land and marine species, are vulnerable to significant population loss. Ornithologist Paul Matiku, who heads the biodiversity watchdog group Nature Kenya, says changing rainfall patterns and rising temperatures are having serious consequences for bird populations.
“Climate change causes seasonal variability in rainfall, temperature and bird feeding. As such, reproduction is aborted and bird populations are automatically reduced over time,” Matiku said. “Wetland birds are affected by reduced water levels due to droughts. The Sahara desert is getting hotter and some migratory birds are dying along their migratory routes due to high temperatures and dehydration.” He added that some birds are so weak from taxing migratory journeys that they no longer breed.
The ecosystems that thrive along Africa’s popular white-sand beaches are also particularly vulnerable, according to Ibidun Adelekan, a geography professor at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria. Africa’s coastlines are at risk of coral reef ecosystem collapse due to coral bleaching, potential saltwater intrusion into freshwater aquifers, and more intense tropical cyclones.
Adelekan warned that further damage to Africa’s coastal biodiversity will also have considerable consequences for the populations of towns and cities along its shores. “The persistent deprivation of terrestrial and marine ecosystems by human actions is leading to increased vulnerability of coastal and island communities to climate impacts,” she told the Associated Press.
His concerns are echoed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, who earlier this year warned that African coasts with “a high proportion of informal settlements and small island states are exposed and highly vulnerable to climate change”.
But scientists are hopeful that better coastal management of marine protected areas and better restrictions on the fishing industry will reduce impacts on marine biodiversity.
“Our research indicates that the future of coral reefs will be much better if fishing restrictions and protected areas are effectively enforced throughout the region,” said Tim McClanahan, senior conservation zoologist at the Wildlife Conservation Society. , which studied more than 100 places in the west. Indian Ocean.
“While climate change may be beyond local control, poor outcomes will be reduced if fisheries succeed in reducing detrimental impacts on coral reefs.”
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