Monitoring Climate Change Impacts

Cape Sugarbird

Climate change and biodiversity monitoring

How vulnerable is biodiversity in southern Africa to climate change? Because species are so varied, there can be no simple answer. Vulnerability is a complex function of a species' ecological and evolutionary history, dispersal, behaviour, genetics, current land use by people, among many other factors. Individual species' vulnerability is also determined by interactions between species in communities and how these are altered by climate change.

Altogether this must be one of the most challenging issues in modern ecology. It emphasises the critical need for monitoring of change to serve as an early warning and to assist in testing projections against reality!

CCA's contribution

Our group has pioneered the use of several integrated models of how biodiversity may respond to climate change. Yet models need to be validated and refined using real observations if we are to trust them for policy making and for developing our predictive ability.

We work in collaboration with our partners in universities, conservation agencies, landowners and others. Our aim is to build an extensive network of reference sites and species for which data can be gathered to support robust and regularly updated recommendations to decision makers. We are thus developing a strategy to broaden our monitoring and research site network, in support of our model-based predictions. In addition to site-based monitoring and research, however, SANBI is also supporting a number of nationwide or region-wide monitoring activities, sometimes undertaken by civil society volunteers. A good example of this approach is the Southern African Bird Atlas Project 2 (SABAP2).Together, a site network plus targeted non-site-based monitoring activities will help us to better understand vulnerability. It will enable us to project and plan for the risks which climate change poses for our extraordinary natural assets, our biodiversity.

Useful Links

Population Ecology: Overview

Booklets and reports:

Birds and Environmental Change: Building an early-warning system in South Africa
Are Quiver Trees a Sentinel for Climate Change in Arid Southern Africa?

The Heat is On

Adapting to Climate Change in the Cape Floristic Region
Integrated Modelling of Range Shifts of Highly Dispersive Animals under Climate Change

Last updated on 14 October 2015
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