Climate Change and Biodiversity

Climate change refers to any significant change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns lasting for an extended period of time, from decades to millions of years. Therefore, climate change includes changes in average weather conditions, such as temperature, precipitation and evapotranspiration among other effects. In combination with human induced changes in land use and land cover, climate change directly impacts the health of ecosystems and as a result the services derived from them. In its Fourth Assessment report, published in 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) confirmed that human induced temperature increase is on the rise with measurable and rising effects.

Although climate change is a global phenomenon, the magnitude of its impacts vary significantly across different regions and it is predicted that these impacts will be most intense and adverse in sub Saharan Africa. This is because most people in the region depend heavily on land-based resources and in particular on agriculture. As such, their food security and overall livelihoods are supported by various ecosystem services, such as the availability of fresh water, regulation of floods, nutrient cycling, pest control and pollination.

The short and long term impacts of climate variability and change will affect these services, and therefore sustainable development as a whole. In addition, the rising population density in SSA is increasing the competition between agriculture, forestry and biodiversity conservation, further complicating matters. Therefore, there is an urgent need for knowledge on adaptation to climate change and variability, so as to reduce the vulnerability of countries, and that of people on a household level.