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York researchers evaluate impact of climate change on biodiversity and habitats in East Africa

Posted on 21 May 2012

University of York researchers will play a key role in a new project studying the impact of climate change in Tanzania, Kenya and Ethiopia.

The new research and development project will address the problems and impact of climate change and variability on food security, livelihoods and economic prosperity around fragile mountain ecosystems.

Globally, and in Africa in particular, there is a general lack of knowledge on the impacts of climate change on sensitive mountain ecosystems.

Dr Rob Marchant

Known as the Climate Change Impacts on Ecosystem Services and Food Security in Eastern Africa (CHIESA), the four-year initiative will be co-ordinated by the Nairobi-headquartered International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), with funding from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland. CHIESA will study the impact of climate change around Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, the Taita Hills in Kenya and the Jimma Highlands in Ethiopia.

Dr Rob Marchant, from the University of York’s Environment Department, is co-ordinating one of six areas of study under the CHIESA project, assessing the impacts of climate change on biodiversity and habitats. He will lead a seven-strong team made up of a Postdoctoral researcher, visiting scientists from the University of Copenhagen and the WWF-US ecosystem service team, and six PhD students based in East African institutions.

Dr Marchant said: “Globally, and in Africa in particular, there is a general lack of knowledge on the impacts of climate change on sensitive mountain ecosystems. Yet these regions are home to many rare and endangered species.

“In addition, many communities rely on them for their livelihoods; from food, water, timber and other natural resources. Moreover, the impact of climate change on the local level, for instance the impact on agricultural productivity, outbreaks of insect pests and changes in water resources are difficult to predict due to the scarcity of monitoring equipment and systems.”

The York-led team will look at the impacts of climate and land cover change on habitats and biodiversity, building regional modeling expertise and generating predictive models for climate impacts on ecosystem services and livelihoods.

Dr Marchant said: “The extent and speed of climate change will severely challenge the adaptive capacity of important species like pollinators and agricultural pests and their natural enemies, as well as the rural communities that depend on rain-fed agricultural production.

“Climate and land cover changes affect the habitats of these species and addressing these threats requires integration of biological research, conservation planning and rural development, and the application of up-to-date modeling skills.” 

The project will collaborate with numerous local Governmental and non-governmental institutions such as the Tanzania, Kenyan and Ethiopian Meteorological Agencies to install automatic weather stations in Mount Kilimanjaro, the Taita Hills and the Jimma Highlands. The project will also work with its lead partners, the University of Helsinki, the University of Dar es Salaam and Sokoine University of Agriculture, to build capacity of Tanzanian, Ethiopian and Kenyan organisations to address climate change research and development issues.

The CHIESA partners will evaluate the perceptions of farmers and their experiences on how they have been affected by climatic conditions and variability.  They will then link this information to scientific data to establish local monitoring systems to reduce risks and promote resilient, sustainable agriculture.

One of the major goals of CHIESA is to partner with stakeholders from Tanzania, Kenya and Ethiopia to provide communities living around the East African highlands with sustainable and effective options to cope with the impacts of climate change.

Notes to editors:

Contact details

Caron Lett
Press Officer

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