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African wildlife, coasts suffer from the effects of flooding and drought

MOMBASA – Devastating floods in South Africa this week, along with other extreme weather events across the continent linked to human-caused climate change, are putting marine and terrestrial animal species at risk, according to biodiversity experts.

Africa has already faced several climate-related problems over the past year: ongoing deadly floods follow relentless cyclones in the south, extreme temperatures in the western and northern regions, and a debilitating drought currently plaguing east, central and the Horn of Africa.

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Conservation and wildlife groups say it’s crucial to protect species from these climate change-related weather events.

“Climate change is disrupting ecosystems and affecting the survival and ability of species to live in their usual habitats,” said Shyla Raghav, director of climate change at Conservation International. “There will be massive disruptions to ecological stability unless appropriate adaptation and mitigation measures are taken. The climate security of our protected areas must be integrated. This is how we strengthen the resilience of nature.”

Several species, including Africa’s famous “Big Five” land animals and other land and sea creatures, are vulnerable to significant population losses. Ornithologist Paul Matiku, who heads the biodiversity monitoring group Nature Kenya, says changing rainfall patterns and increased temperatures are having serious consequences for bird populations.

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“Climate change is causing seasonal variations in precipitation, temperature and food for birds. This leads to brood abortions and bird populations automatically decrease over time,” said Matiku. “Wetland birds are affected by falling water levels due to droughts. The Sahara 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 weak from the arduous train journey that they no longer breed.

Ecosystems that thrive along Africa’s popular white-sand beaches are also at particular risk, according to Ibidun Adelekan, a geography professor at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria. Coral reef ecosystems along Africa’s coasts are at risk of 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 serious consequences for the urban populations along its shores. “The ongoing deprivation of terrestrial and marine ecosystems by human activity is leading to increased vulnerability of coastal and island communities to climate impacts,” she told the Associated Press.

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

However, scientists hope that improved coastal management of marine protected areas and better restrictions on the fishing industry will limit the impact on marine biodiversity.

“Our research shows that the future of coral reefs will be much brighter if fisheries restrictions and conservation areas are effectively applied across the region,” said Tim McClanahan, a senior conservation zoologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society, who surveyed over 100 sites in the western Indian Ocean.

“While climate change may be beyond local control, if fisheries manage to reduce the detrimental impacts on coral reefs, the negative impacts will be reduced.”

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https://www.local10.com/news/world/2022/04/20/african-wildlife-coasts-suffer-effects-of-flooding-drought/ African wildlife, coasts suffer from the effects of flooding and drought

Jaclyn Diaz

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