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Title: The impact of climate change on the distribution and conservation status of African antelopes
Author: Payne, Benjamin
ISNI:       0000 0004 6057 8883
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2015
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Global biodiversity is under threat from multiple fronts. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment predicts that climate change (CC) will be the “dominant direct driver of biodiversity loss” by the end of the 21st century. This project studies the impact of CC on the distribution and conservation status of antelopes found in Africa. Africa is an area of high climate variability and high vulnerability to CC, and most of the world’s antelope species are native to the continent. Various threats are already causing the decline in 63% of antelope species with 26% being classified as threatened. Antelopes are a speciose and biologically diverse group and therefore provide an ideal opportunity to reveal more general patterns of the effect of CC across taxa. To assess the impact of climate change on Africa’s antelopes I use species distribution models (SDMs), based on climatic variables, to produce ensemble predictions of species distributions for 2080. Using the SDMs I also establish links between biological traits and the optimal climatic conditions for species. The ensemble predictions incorporate three climate models for three climate scenarios, and I predict the future distributions using three approaches. The first is a pessimistic representation of species’ distributions in a future where they are unable to disperse from their current range to track CC. The second, optimistic approach, permits species to disperse at a given rate based on body mass. Finally, the envelope approach presents a comparison of suitable climatic conditions, which are connected to the existing distribution, between now and the end of the century (i.e. not restricted by current distribution or dispersal). The results indicate that 81-85% of species (59-62 of 73) will exhibit a contraction in range based on suitable climatic conditions, and that the average contraction of those species is 39.4-50.1%. Up to six of 73 species are predicted to be without any climatically suitable areas in 2080 depending on the modelling and forecasting approach taken. Worryingly, there is also a disproportionate reduction in the predicted distribution of threatened antelope, whereas species with broader climatic niche and a preference for warmer temperatures typically perform better. Using Marxan conservation planning software, I produce protected area network solutions that protect Africa’s antelopes based on their predicted distributions in 2080. High and low protection options are presented which require 8.7 and 8.1% respectively of Africa’s land mass in order to protect Africa’s antelopes. These solutions, that are based around the existing IUCN protected area network (categories I-VI), reveal key new areas are required in Somalia, while expansion of existing protected areas (PAs) are required continent-wide, particularly in Liberia, Cameroon, Kenya, Tanzania, and the Central African Republic. I also find that the contribution of community led PAs, and other non-IUCN PAs, to these solutions is currently limited, but in some areas they play an important role in bridging gaps between existing IUCN PAs. Finally, 14 species are either identified to qualify as threatened due to climate change based on IUCN Red List criteria, or can be considered threatened due to having no protected area coverage within their predicted range in 2080. Based on predicted species distributions under the A1B climate scenario, the hirola (Beatragus hunteri) and Aders’ duiker (Cephalophus adersi) have no suitable climatic conditions within, or connected to, their existing range in 2080. However, for all species, climatically suitable conditions are present in Africa in the future, and protected areas are found within those regions. For the species most at risk I provide recommendations for translocation options taking into account the potential for interspecific competition by assessing the number of novel antelope species and interspecific niche overlap in the climatically suitable areas.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: GE Environmental Sciences ; QH301 Biology ; QL Zoology