WCS-Led Report Will Help Improve Climate Adaptation Efforts in Africa

  • Report Features Major WCS Studies on Western Indian Ocean Coral Reefs and the Albertine Rift
  • Recommendations Include Improvements in Data Sharing, Workshops and Technology

WASHINGTON, D.C. (October 20, 2011) – The Wildlife Conservation Society and other members of the Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group released a report today that will help African nations plan for the impending effects of climate change, such as more severe storms and flooding, changes in farming seasons, increased operational and financial risks for farmers and businesses.  The lead writers of the report are WCS’s Anton Seimon and James Watson.

The group released the report at an event at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in Washington, which funded the review of experiences in climate change adaptation to help communities and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) anticipate and incorporate plans for climate change impacts. The report notes that much of the progress made in African conservation in recent decades is under potential threat by climate change that will exacerbate environmental degradation in Africa.  Science, technology, and assessments serve as important planning tools to identify vulnerabilities and respond to unavoidable impacts. The report concludes that adaptation assessments to this point would benefit from more consistent measurement standards, better coordination among NGOs, and an accepted framework for design and implementation of adaptation projects.

Because the livelihoods of most Africans are directly tied to the natural environment and its resources, they are particularly susceptible to the effects of climate change. The warming climate will bring changing rainfall patterns, changes in seasonality and an increase in the frequency of severe storms. This negatively affects key subsistence crops, fisheries and habitat already impacted by other degradation factors, threatening both humans and wildlife alike.

The report, titled “A Review of Climate Change Adaptation Initiatives within the Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group Members,” highlights two WCS climate adaptation assessments as examples of how this tool contributes to more effective planning and programming at the field level.  The Albertine Rift Climate Assessment Project, led by Anton Seimon, evaluates the vulnerability of both biodiversity and human livelihoods to climate change through its impact on agricultural yields.  The Western Indian Ocean Coral Reef Conservation Program, led by Tim McClanahan, uses a site-specific approach based on environmental data and field surveys to assess the impact of climate change on coral reefs and identify adaption measures for sustainable fisheries.  Both projects are supported in part by the MacArthur Foundation.

“Climate change is exacerbating environmental challenges that already exist in Africa, making conservation solutions for natural resources and the people who depend on them for their livelihoods that much more difficult to achieve,” said Anton Seimon, co-lead author and Applied Climate Scientist at WCS.  “As a community, conservation organizations can multiply the positive effects of their good work by establishing a framework for collaboration and sharing data and best practices.”

James Watson, co-lead author and WCS Climate Change Lead, said, “Adaptation programs are a large and growing component of WCS’s work in Africa and around the world. The projects illustrated in the report can serve as test cases for the methodologies that may be used in future projects, as long as lessons learned are made available to groups implementing new projects. Through cross-pollination of ideas and experience, our work can go further in saving wildlife and improving livelihoods in the face of climate change.”

The report details key recommendations for future projects in the areas of Data, Analysis and Modeling; Project Design and Execution; Project Monitoring and Evaluation; and Working with Donors.  These recommendations include:

  • Sharing climatological data among national governments, conservation, development, climate monitoring and climate change communities to fill data voids;
  • Using scenario building exercises with scientists and stakeholders with relevant experience and local knowledge to consider how outcomes may vary;
  • Convening workshops to share lessons learned on use of models and modeling results;
  • Utilizing an adaptation framework to help conceptualize project design, tailored as needed to explicitly include the role of people in project activities;
  • Holding forums for local decision makers, donors and ABCG members and their partners to identify strategies for designing actions that ensure effective implementation;
  • Working collaboratively to ensure sustained funding for long‐term monitoring beyond the duration of normal funding periods;
  • Using the findings of this report to inform key funders with programs in Africa of priorities through outreach activities such as workshops; and
  • Incorporating consideration of the implications of population growth, demand for resources and disease dynamics into climate change adaptation work in Africa.

The Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group (ABCG) comprises seven international conservation groups, including WCS, African Wildlife Foundation, Conservation International, the Jane Goodall Institute, The Nature Conservancy, World Resources Institute, and World Wildlife Fund – US.  The groups work together to promote adaptation to climate change and further a sustainable future for the African continent.

Chip Weiskotten: (202-624-8172; cweiskotten@wcs.org)
Mary Dixon: (347-840-1242; mdixon@wcs.org)

The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide.  We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world's largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes toward nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth. 

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