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Climate change modelling highlights the vulnerability of birds in the Albertine Rift Valley

Regal Sunbird Nectarinia regia © Greg and Yvonne Dean/WorldWildlifeImages.com

Climate-envelope modeling at high resolution in the Albertine Rift Valley of East Africa has allowed finer-scale projections of climate change impacts on birds than previously available. The results for 14 bird species endemic to the rift are alarming: suitable climatic conditions for all species are projected to move upslope over the coming decades, by, on average, 350 m by 2085. Some areas are projected to support none of the species by the end of the century, and at least one species Red-collared Mountain-babbler Kupeornis rufocinctus is projected to lose all suitable climate within the region.


Projected species richness of 14 Albertine Rift endemics across time. Warmer colours indicate greater richness. Grey-scale is a 30 arc-second digital elevation model, with dark colours representing higher elevation. Graphic is looking due north 'up' the Albertine Rift.

Source: Unpublished data from BirdLife International, Durham University, Wildlife Conservation Society, Makerere University, Nature Uganda, ACNR Rwanda, ABO Burundi, Albertine Rift Conservation Network and Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Understanding the likely impacts of climate change on species of conservation concern is necessary to facilitate climate change adaptation. Climate-envelope modeling is a widely used approach, involving modeling the current distribution of species in relation to climatic variables, and then applying these models to climate projections. BirdLife International Partners, Durham University, the Wildlife Conservation Society, Makerere University, and the Albertine Rift Conservation Network have recently collaborated to apply this approach in the Albertine Rift Valley of East Africa. Modeling at 30 arc-second resolution (c.1 km2) has allowed finer-scale projections than previously available. The results for 14 bird species endemic to the rift are alarming: suitable climatic conditions for all species are projected to move upslope over the coming decades, by, on average, 350 m by 2085. Some areas are projected to support none of the species by the end of the century, and at least one species Red-collared Mountain-babbler Kupeornis rufocinctus is projected to lose all suitable climate within the region. However, some regions outside the current IBA network are projected to be crucial in providing suitable environmental conditions for many of the 14 species by 2085. As such, protection and or restoration (as appropriate) of the forests in these regions is likely to represent a key adaptive management strategy in an effort to ensure the resilience of the Albertine Rift’s IBA network under climate change.



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Acknowledgements

 Many thanks to Steve Willis for providing the figure. This study was funded by the MacArthur Foundation.

Compiled 2013

Recommended Citation:
BirdLife International (2013) Climate change modelling highlights the vulnerability of birds in the Albertine Rift Valley. Presented as part of the BirdLife State of the world's birds website. Available from: http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/sowb/casestudy/548. Checked: 21/10/2014