Sustaining sanctuary

Ecology Lett. 12, 420–431 (2009)


As the climate changes, conservation areas will probably lose some species they were originally designed to protect, but overall they could still provide an important buffer against biodiversity loss. A new study finds that a network of important bird sites across sub–Saharan Africa should continue to afford protection to more than 88 per cent of the region's endangered inhabitants, despite anticipated changes in climate.

David Hole, of Durham University, UK, and colleagues examined the resilience of the sub–Saharan network, which holds 1,608 bird species, to a moderate emissions scenario over three time periods. Community turnover — a measure of the change in species composition — increased throughout the twenty-first century, and reached an average of 26 per cent by 2085. But biodiversity fared well across the network, with, on average, 74–80 per cent of current bird species persisting in protected areas through to 2100. Of 815 species of conservation concern, 714–746 retained suitable habitat as the climate changed. Only seven or eight of the priority species lost climatically suitable habitat within the network by the end of the century.

Certain areas, such as the tropical highlands and the Namib-Karoo deserts, were particularly susceptible to species loss, however, and could lose up to 63 per cent of their priority bird species by 2100.


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Armstrong, A. Sustaining sanctuary. Nature Clim Change 1, 54–55 (2009).

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