Sad that we as the human race has so little regard for this beautiful blue planet we call home. Let’s all do our bit, wherever we live or wherever we travel and to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.
Africa occupies about 1/5 of the global land surface and is home to almost 1/5 of all known species of mammals, birds and plants in the world. The continent is also one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to climate change. On a regular basis, I get asked the question of whether we’re seeing any changes to our ecosystem because of global warming. It’s always a bit of a controversial topic, but I thought it would be quite insightful to research what changes have been studied regarding our area to the impacts of global warming.
Climate change is the long-term changes in the climate that occur over long periods of time. It is caused by rapidly increasing greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere, mostly due to burning fossil fuels.
This blog will take a closer look at how the changing climate is impacting and may continue to impact Londolozi’s ecosystem and plant diversity.
A study about the impacts of climate change on South African National Parks shows that there are significant changes in annual average temperatures and rainfall pattern changes. The annual temperature recorded at the Skukuza Camp weather station (about 21km away from Londolozi, in the Kruger National Park) revealed an increase of about 2°C over 41 years, from 29.2 °C in 1977 to an average of 31.2 °C in 2017. Evidence shows that these temperatures are steadily increasing per year.
Londolozi has its rainy season from November to February. Studies are showing that rainfall will become more erratic and unpredictable throughout the year. This has already been seen this year in our area with uncharacteristic rains over the winter months.
The changes in temperature, as well as rainfall, coupled with extreme weather events such as droughts, cyclones and extreme heat in the Greater Kruger National Park Area, may lead to the loss of flora and fauna. Below we will go into further detail on the possible changes to the biodiversity and migration of mammals, birds and plants in Londolozi.
Animal biodiversity in Africa is highly concentrated in the tropical forests and grasslands, where Londolozi falls. Damage or loss of these habitats by climate change will impact grassland mammals. Studies focus on grassland antelope species (for example, impala, kudu, and nyala, among others) and how climate change will affect these species.
Our ecosystem is normally reliant on stable summer rainfall to trigger the growth of plants, however extreme drought and increasingly unreliable rainfall is becoming more common. If the area becomes drier due to drought conditions, only the hardier plants will remain, often the pioneer species, such as bushwillows and guarries, that are able to withstand hard conditions. From this, there will be less plant diversity and these hardy species aren’t as favourable for animals to eat. Additionally, with increased heavy rain events, some species won’t be able to survive with water-logged soils and may die out.
Increasing levels of atmospheric CO2 are thought to be associated with bush encroachment and increasing cover of woody vegetation in our area. Bush encroachment is likely to have a significant impact on our ecosystem and animal’s grazing
The large herds of migratory animals in southern Africa, for example, rhinos and elephants, are crucial for maintaining the ecology, not only in Londolozi, as mentioned in my previous blogs, but of the whole continent. Although a major migratory system is in the Serengeti area of Tanzania and the Masai-Mara region of Kenya, a smaller large-mammal migratory system is in the Greater Kruger National Park Area. Typical migration involves movement between dry-season and wet-season grazing areas. If the rain patterns change, this will disrupt the migration patterns and the grazing areas themselves. This will mean a couple of things: firstly, large keystone species will leave our area in search of rain and more vegetation, resulting in a change to our ecology; or secondly, too many animals will move into our area, putting strain on our resources.
About one-fifth of our bird species migrate on a seasonal basis within Africa, and a further one-tenth migrate yearly between Africa and the rest of the world. If climatic or habitat conditions at either end of these birds’ migratory routes change beyond the tolerance of the species, a great loss of biodiversity could result. On the bright side, the species involved do have some capability to alter their destinations, however, it is difficult in a world of growing human land use, and the likelihood of the birds finding areas with a suitable habitat is small.
As the climate changes, plants naturally attempt to adapt by migrating. As Londolozi is part of the 3.5 million hectares that the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park provides, there is ample space for the plants in the area to migrate northwards. With some of the species in our landscape having the ability to migrate away, this means that some species favoured by our fauna might not stay in the area, and as they move, the animals will move with them. By move, I do not mean that the plant will uproot and go find a better more suitable spot. But rather migrate over generations as their seeds are dispersed and find a more suitable climate elsewhere as parent plants die off.
There is a possibility that new species may migrate into our area, as well. This could bring with it new birds and small rodent species that haven’t been seen around Londolozi in the past.
So, what is the answer to Londolozi and the impacts of climate change?
It’s hard to come up with one well-rounded answer when asked about the climate change impacts on Londolozi. The most obvious impacts will be on the biodiversity and migrations of animals, birds, and plants. In the future, we can try to fix the possible changes by reducing heat-trapping gas emissions and by employing suitable adaptation strategies. We are working hard to ensure our biodiversity is managed and that adequate habitat is preserved to enable all species to live in their most desired and favourable environments.
Filed under Sustainability Wildlife
Well said Babs. We as humans are destroying the oplanet and it iss our individual duty to do all we can to right our wrongs. There is no planet B. Thank you.
I agree with you!