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Africas climate

from the year

Efforts by
Vidhi Wadhwa
Roll No. 40

Africa contains about one-fifth of all known species
of plants, mammals, and birds, as well as one-sixth
of amphibians and reptiles. These species compose
some of the worlds most diverse and biologically
important ecosystems such as savannahs, tropical
forests, coral reef marine and freshwater habitats,
wetlands and montane ecosystems. These globally
important ecosystems provide the economic
foundation that many Africa countries rely on by
providing water, food, and shelter. However,
because of climate change, these ecosystems and
the livelihoods that depend on them are threatened.
The aim of this report is to highlight some of the
major impacts of climate change on conservation for
East Africa countries including Kenya, Tanzania,

Africa's changing climate

While the exact nature of the changes in temperature,
precipitation, and extreme events is not known, there
is agreement about the following general trends.1
o Global mean surface temperature is projected to
increase between 1.5 C (2.7F) and 6 C (10.8F) by
o Sea levels are projected to rise by 15 to 95
centimeters (6 to 37 inches) by 2100.
o Climate change scenarios for Africa indicate future
warming across the continent ranging from 0.2C
(0.36F) per decade (low scenario) to more than 0.5C
(0.9F) per decade (high scenario) (Hulme et al. 2001;
Desanker and Magadza 2001). This warming will be
greatest over the interior of semiarid margins of the
Sahara and central southern Africa.

Impacts on humans
o Biodiversity loss Biodiversity is an important
resource for African people. Uses are
consumptive (food, fiber, fuel,
shelter, medicine, wildlife trade) and
nonconsumptive (ecosystem services
and the economically important
tourism industry). Given the heavy
dependence on natural resources in
Africa, many communities are
vulnerable to the biodiversity loss
that could result from climate
change. The impact of climate
change on humans will also be
compounded by climate
changeinduced alterations of
agriculture, water supply and


Most of Africa relies on rain-fed agriculture. As a

result, it is highly vulnerable to changes in
climate variability, seasonal shifts, and
precipitation patterns. Any amount of warming
will result in increased water stress. Roughly
70 per-cent of the population lives by farming,
and 40 percent of all exports are agricultural
products (WRI 1996). One-third of the income
in Africa is generated by agriculture. Crop
production and livestock husbandry account
for about half of household income. The
poorest members of society are those who are
most dependent on agriculture for jobs and
income. (Odingo 1990; FAO 1999).


Climate change has critical

health implications. Changes
in rainfall will affect the
presence and absence of
vector- and water-borne
pathogens (IPCC 2001). For
example, it can be expected
that small changes in
temperature and precipitation
will boost the population of
disease-carrying mosquitoes
and result in increased
malaria epidemics (Lindsay
and Martens 1998). Increased
flooding could facilitate the
breeding of these malaria
carriers in formerly arid areas
(Warsame et al. 1995).

o Human

migration Semi-arid areas of the Sahel, the Kalahari,

and the Karoo historically have supported
nomadic societies that migrate in response
to annual and seasonal rainfall variations.
Nomadic pastoral systems are intrinsically
able to adapt to fluctuating and extreme
climates provided they have Impact of
climate change on Africa 3 sufficient scope
for movement and other necessary
elements in the system remain in place.
However, the prolonged drying trend in the
Sahel since the 1970s has demonstrated
the vulnerability of such groups to climate
change: they cannot simply move their axis
of migration.

Impacts ono animals

Bird migration
o Biodiversity
Africa occupies about one-fifth
of the global land surface and
contains about one-fifth of all
known species of plants,
mammals, and birds in the
world, as well as one-sixth of
amphibians and reptiles
(Siegfried 1989). Climate
change has already affected
the marine animals of Africa.
Coral reefs in the Indian Ocean
experienced massive
bleaching in 1998, with over
50 percent mortality in some
regions (Spalding 2001).
Damage to coral reef systems
has far reaching implications

About one-fifth of African bird

species migrate on a seasonal
basis within Africa, and an
additional one-tenth migrate
annually between Africa and the
rest of the world (Hockey 2000).
One of the main intra-Africa
migratory patterns is flown by
waterfowl, which spend the austral
summer in southern Africa and
winter in central Africa. Palearctic
migrants spend the austral
summer in locations such as
Langebaan lagoon, near Cape
Town, and the boreal summer in
the wetlands of Siberia. If climatic
conditions or specific habitat
conditions at either end of these
migratory routes change beyond
the tolerance of the species
involved, significant losses of
biodiversity could result.

Impacts on plants
o Biodiversity
Africas biodiversity is
concentrated in several unique
native environments. The Cape
Floral Kingdom (fynbos), which
occupies only 37,000 square
kilometers at the southern tip of
Africa, has 7,300 plant speciesof
which 68 percent occur nowhere
else in the world (Gibbs 1987). The
adjacent Succulent Karoo biome
contains an additional 4,000
species, of which 2,500 are native
(Cowling et al. 1998). These two
floral biodiversity hot spots occur
in winter rainfall regions and would
be threatened by a shift in rainfall
seasonality. For instance, a
reduction in winter rainfall or an
increase in summer rainfall would

o Plant migration
As the climate changes, plants will
naturally attempt to adapt by
migrating, assuming the landscape is
not too fragmented. However, given
that most of the land in Africa is
inhabited by humans, not all species
will be able to migrate. From a
conservation management
perspective, this indicates that
creating avenues of migration for
critical plant groups (in either direction
of Impact of climate change on Africa 5
the climatic gradient) might be a useful
hedge against destructive changes in
climate. Unfortunately for some
regions, such as the fynbos, which is at
the of the continent, there are limited
options for migration

Human health
Climate variability has had far-reaching affects to human
health, and includes, but is not limited to, the following: heat
stress, air pollution, asthma, vector-borne diseases (such as
malaria, dengue, schistosomiasis (also referred to as swimmers
itch or snail fever) and tick-borne diseases), water-borne and
food-borne diseases (such as diarrhoeal diseases). For this
report, we concentrate on just two of these effects, malaria and
Rift Valley fever; however, other health issues are likely to be
affected by climate change. Climate change is expected to
exacerbate the occurrence and intensity of future disease
outbreaks and perhaps increase the spread of diseases in some
areas. It is known that climate variability and extreme weather
events, such as high temperatures and intense rainfall events,
are critical factors in initiating malaria epidemics especially in
the highlands of western Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania,
Rwanda and Madagascar (Zhou et al., 2004). While other
factors, such as topography and health preparedness can
influence the spread of malaria, scientists have found a

Extreme weather
Warming temperatures are projected to cause more frequent and
more intense extreme weather events, such as heavy rain storms,
flooding, fires, hurricanes, tropical storms and El Nio events
(IPCC, 2001). Tropical storms can ravage coastal areas and
intensive the impacts of sea-level rise by accelerating erosion in
coastal areas and by removing protective natural buffer areas that
absorb storm energy, such as wetlands and mangroves (Magadza,
2000). Extreme rainfall and subsequent heavy flooding damage
will also have serious effects on agriculture including the erosion
of topsoil, inundation of previously arid soils, and leaching
nutrients from the soil. Regional fluctuations in lake levels are
another impact of regional climate variations and are expected to
worsen with projected climate change. While land use change can
have a dramatic effect on lake levels, climate variability is more
unpredictable and difficult to manage for.

Water Availability
Arguably one of the most widespread and potentially
devastating impacts of climate change in East Africa will
be changes in the frequency, intensity, and predictability
of precipitation. Changes in regional precipitation will
ultimately affect water availability and may lead to
decreased agricultural production and potentially
widespread food shortages. Projections of climate change
suggest that East Africa will experience warmer
temperatures and a 5-20% increased rainfall from
December-February and 5-10% decreased rainfall from
June-August by 2050 (Hulme et al., 2001; IPCC, 2001). Not
only are these changes not uniform throughout the year,
they will likely occur in sporadic and unpredictable events.
It may also be likely that the increased precipitation will
come in a few very large rainstorms mostly during the
already wet season thereby adding to erosion and water
management issues and complicating water management.

Sea level rise

Sea-level rise along coastal areas where high human
populations occur is likely to disrupt economic activities
there, such as tourism, mining and fisheries. Sea-level rise
and resulting coastal erosion is of particular concern coastal
Kenya and Tanzania. Warm sea surface temperatures,
extreme weather events, and sea-level rise can lead to the
destruction of coral reefs, which absorb the energy of ocean
swells (IPCC, 2001). Coral reef loss is a significant cause of
coastal erosion and a major coastal management issue in
both Kenya and Tanzania (Magadza, 2000). Productive
mangrove ecosystems along coastal areas serve as a buffer
against storm surges by providing protection from erosion
and rising tides associated with sea-level rise. However,
mangroves are at threat from deforestation, coastal erosion
and extreme weather and have been identified as the most
vulnerable species to sea-level rise and inundation (IPCC,
2001). Sea-level rise is also threatening the availability of

Food security
There is a strong link between climate and East African
livelihoods. East Africa depends heavily on rain-fed
agriculture making rural livelihoods and food security highly
vulnerable to climate variability such as shifts in growing
season conditions (IPCC, 2001). Further, agriculture
contributes 40% of the regions gross domestic product
(GDP) and provides a living for 80% East Africans (IFPRI,
2004). However because temperature has increased and
precipitation in the region has decreased in some areas,
many are already being affected. For example, from 1996 to
2003, there has been a decline in rainfall of 50-150 mm per
season (March to May) and corresponding decline in longcycle crops (e.g., slowly maturing varieties of sorghum and
maize) across most of eastern Africa (Funk et al., 2005).
Long-cycle crops depend upon rain during this typically wet
season and progressive moisture deficit results in low crop
yields in the fall, thereby impacting the available food

Climate change will have significant impacts on
biodiversity and food security in Africa.
Therefore, substantial reductions of heattrapping gas emissions in developed countries
and adaptation strategies are crucial. For
example, biodiversity must be managed to
ensure that ensure that conservation is occurring
both inside and outside of parks and reserves,
and that adequate habitat is preserved to enable
speciesplants, animals and humansto
migrate. The conservation of African biodiversity
will ensure delivery of ecosystem goods and
services necessary to human life support
systems (soil health, water, air, etc) An