Climate Community Development

Climate change to accelerate biodiversity loss

Climate change could lead to the sudden loss of biodiversity in Africa and other regions of the world sooner than predicted, with a negative impct on people’s food security and income, a study says. 

In many developing countries, according to Christopher Trisos, the study’s lead author, more people rely on the immediate natural environment for the livelihood, food security and income and thus “a sudden disruption or loss of local ecosystems could seriously impact the ability of people in these countries to earn an income and feed themselves, potentially pushing them further into extreme poverty”.

“Millions of people in these regions, for instance, rely on fishing as an essential source of food and income, as well as eco-tourism and an abrupt disruption of marine ecosystems with sudden loss of species could negatively impact their food security and income,” he adds. 

The study says that temperature rises above two degrees Celsius will severely affect biodiversity by the end of the century, although it is unclear whether the changes will occur suddenly or gradually. 

But the study, which resulted from simulations of climate change data and was published in Nature last week (8 April), suggests that abrupt biodiversity loss will begin as early as the 2030s in tropical ocean ecosystems under scenarios of temperature rises of at least two degrees Celsius. 

“If we continue on a high emissions pathway, the risk will spread to tropical and temperate ecosystems on land by the 2050s,” says Trisos, a senior researcher at the African Climate and Development Initiative at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. 

Trisos says that Africa, Asia, and Latin America have large tropical land and ocean ecosystems that are at high risk of abrupt biodiversity loss. 

In marine ecosystems along the west coast of Africa and the Indo-Pacific region, the disruption could occur within a decade from now, Trisos explains. 

Researchers combined the climate data with data on incidence for 30,000 species of animals and plants including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, marine fish, corals, and seagrasses. They then calculated the warmest temperatures that each species had been exposed to between 1850 and 2005 as well as future scenarios for the years 2006–2100. 

Abrupt biodiversity loss, Trisos says is extremely dangerous because of local deaths of the tropical land and marine ecosystems. 

Tobias Nyumba, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Institute for Climate Change and Adaptation, University of Nairobi, Kenya, says climate change’s negative impact on all levels of biodiversity —  from individual organisms to communities of plants and animals —  could accelerate the loss and even extinction of biodiversity. 

“Global warming will also lead to the general loss of genetic diversity of populations through the selection and rapid migration and hence alteration of ecosystem functions and resilience,” Nyumba explains. 

Africa is considered one of the most biodiverse regions of the world but human activities and climatic threats will most certainly modify how biodiversity interact, particularly at a community level and how they depend on each other, he says, adding that most species will lose their ability to adapt to the emerging set of environmental conditions. 

With over 90 percent rural population in Africa mainly relying on crop farming, livestock production, and nature-based income as poverty alleviation strategies, Nyumba calls for more action from African governments and key institutions.    

“African governments and practitioners will need to invest in understanding the relationships between climate change and human and economic development,” Nyumba says.

Source: IPP Media

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Byron Adonis Mutingwende