Climate change is adding stress to ecosystems already threatened by direct human activity in Tanzania. WCS is working to predict and mitigate its impact on biodiversity and human livelihoods.
Tanzania’s biodiversity and natural resources are under ever increasing pressure from human activities. The effects of climate change are already adding to these threats, while human activity such as deforestation and urbanisation are exacerbating the problem in turn. Where species and ecosystem resilience is already weakened by factors such as habitat loss, population isolation and hunting, vulnerability to the effects of climate change is more profound. Mitigation and adaptation measures are both becoming increasingly urgent across the country.
While it is notoriously hard to accurately predict the effects of climate change over time, in different locations and the response of complex ecosystems, research into specific species and habitats can shed valuable light on the potential impacts. This can then provide a sound basis for adaptation and conservation strategy development. For example, WCS research into chimpanzee habitat on the shores of Lake Tanganyika indicates that an increase in temperature, rainfall and atmospheric carbon dioxide will lead to a dramatic increase in vegetation growth and plant respiration. Given that the wet and dry seasons are predicted to remain in place, this increase in plant matter could either mean that wildfire will be more intense and widespread than at present, or conversely that the hydrological cycle in the area will slow down, the area remain wetter and fire risk reduce. These conflicting future scenarios highlight how challenging the interpretation of modelling results can be, as well as the necessity of ongoing research and adaptation planning for both biodiversity conservation and natural resource based livelihood security.
WCS is approaching the climate change issue from various perspectives; analysis and modelling of climate change predictions to investigate the potential impacts of climate change as well as the development of Reduced Emissions from avoided Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) baseline data and potential. There is also a long term tree planting initiative with over 3 million trees raised and planted to date.
We developed a broad scale climate change assessment for Tanzania based on Global Climate Model data used by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report. We are exploring ways of making this global data relevant for field-based conservation at local and regional levels as well and analysing its impact in relation to land use change data and ecosystems models.
WCS also developed a project with the Royal Norwegian Embassy entitled “REDD Readiness in Southwest Tanzania“. The montane forests of the Southern Highlands were used as a case study to standardise approaches for establishing baseline information, monitoring forest degradation and supporting community incentives, education and resource supply.