Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Africa's 'green corridors' can save climate-stressed birds

A globally-threatened Shoebill stork, Balaeniceps rex, in Uganda's Mabamba Bay wetland (Photo courtesy Ramsar)

DURHAM, UK, June 2, 2009 (ENS) - A network of wildlife conservation areas across Africa will be vital in helping to save up to 90 percent of bird species on the African continent affected by climate change, according to new research released today.

Led by biologists at Durham University, the computer modeling study probed the effects of "moderate" climate change on 815 bird species of conservation concern in sub-Saharan Africa and on the network of sites designated for them, known as Important Bird Areas.

The findings suggest that it is up to African legislators to protect ecosystems that can serve as what the scientists call "green corridors" to help wildlife find new, more comfortable areas when their habitat heats up. More than 40 percent of African Important Bird Areas lack any form of legal protection under national or international law.

"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," said Dr. Stephen Willis from the School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences at Durham.

Published in the journal Ecology Letters, the study found that over the next 75 years, climate change will affect the species of some regions more than others.

"The central regions of Africa should maintain many of their current species as long as the protected areas remain intact," Willis said. "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 percent of species leaving." …

Africa's 'Green Corridors' Can Save Climate-Stressed Birds

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