Interacting threats research

Interacting threats publication list

 

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Birds, humans, the environment, and space

Habitat loss and climate change, West Africa

 

 

Humans impact nature in multiple ways through mechanisms such as habitat loss, climate change, pollution, invasive species, and over-exploitation. While it is important to understand how each of these mechanisms impact nature individually, it is imperative to gain a more holistic understanding of how these threats interact with one another to drive species endangerment. My work revolve around finding inovative ways to understanding how these threats interact, and also how to mitigate these interactions.

 

 

Birds, humans, the environment, and space

 

As part of my M.Sc. dissertation research under the guidance of Berndt J. van Rensburg, I used data from the South African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP) to analyse species richness patterns of selected bird orders. I specifically looked at how the environmental factors, human activity and spatial patterns relative to each other (variables roughly based on the I=PAT equation). I found that water birds seemed to respond particularly strongly to human-assisted alteration of the landscape, with both threatened and non-threatened water birds benefiting from the creation of artificial water bodies. In other words human activity allows many water birds to occur in otherwise unutilized areas. This is important in light of global warming as South Africa's water availability is predicted to decline. As such, conservation conflicts are likely to escalate across most, if not all, South African avian orders. Water birds that are highly dependent on water will likely be impacted most severely as human demands for limited environmental resources such as water increase. Different conservation strategies may be required to ensure the continued persistence of South Africa’s birds.

 

 

Habitat loss and climate change, West Africa

 

Funded by a NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship, I aim to refine conservation priorities in the Guinean Forests of West Africa. Deemed a Biodiversity Hotspot for its high levels of endemism, this region has already lost over 85% of its forest cover under some of the densest human populations in Africa. The region’s topographic complexity and tropical climate may also render its endemic biodiversity highly vulnerable to climate change. To understand how climate change and habitat loss interact, I am examining their combined influence on the distributions of forest birds and primates endemic to the Guinean Forests of West Africa. The results I generate will allow me to estimate which endemic bird species will be most threatened by the combined effects of habitat loss and climate change, and which individual forest patches harbor more endemic bird species threatened by these combined effects at present and in future. These results will inform the conservation community of human impacts on the region’s unique biodiversity, and guide science-based policy and management by refining conservation priorities.

 

 

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