African wildlife, coasts suffer the effects of floods and drought

MOMBASA – Devastating floods in South Africa this week, along with other extreme weather events across the continent linked to man-made climate change, are putting marine and terrestrial wildlife at risk, biodiversity experts say.

Africa has already faced several climate-related challenges over the past year: ongoing deadly floods following relentless cyclones in the south, extreme temperatures in western and northern regions and a debilitating drought that is currently afflicting East, Central and the Horn of Africa.

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Conservation and wildlife groups say it is essential to protect species from these weather events linked to climate change.

“Climate change is disrupting ecosystems and affecting the survival and ability of species to live in their usual habitats,” said Shyla Raghav, who heads the climate change division at Conservation International. “Massive disruption of ecological stability will occur if adequate adaptation and mitigation measures are not implemented. It is necessary to integrate the climate protection of our protected areas. In this way, we strengthen nature’s resilience.

Several species, including the famous African land animals “the big five” and other terrestrial and marine species, are vulnerable to significant population loss. Ornithologist Paul Matiku, who heads the biodiversity monitoring group Nature Kenya, says changing rainfall patterns and rising temperatures are having serious consequences for bird populations.

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“Climate change leads to seasonal variability in rainfall, temperature and food for birds. Thus, breeding abortions and bird populations automatically decrease 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 migration routes due to high temperatures and dehydration.” He added that some birds are so weakened by the taxation of migratory travel that they no longer breed.

The ecosystems that thrive along Africa’s popular white sand beaches are also particularly vulnerable, according to Ibidun Adelekan, professor of geography at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria. African coasts are at risk of coral reef ecosystem collapse due to bleaching, potential saltwater intrusion into freshwater aquifers, and more intense tropical cyclones.

Adelekan warned that greater damage to Africa’s coastal biodiversity will also have far-reaching consequences for the populations of towns and cities along its coasts. “The continued deprivation of terrestrial and marine ecosystems by human actions leads to increased vulnerability of coastal and island communities to climate impacts,” she told The Associated Press.

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His concerns are echoed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which warned earlier this year that African coasts with “a high proportion of informal settlements and small island states are exposed and highly vulnerable to climate change. climatic”.

But scientists hope that better coastal management of marine protected areas and better restrictions on the fishing industry will limit impacts on marine biodiversity.

“Our research indicates that the future of coral reefs will be much brighter if fishing restrictions and protected areas are effectively enforced across the region,” said Tim McClanahan, senior conservation zoologist at the Wildlife Conservation Society, who has surveyed over 100 sites in the west. Indian Ocean.

“While climate change may be beyond local control, poor outcomes will be reduced if fishing succeeds in reducing adverse impacts on coral reefs.”

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