The Albertine Rift region of Africa is one of the most biodiverse areas on the planet, with more threatened and endemic vertebrates than elsewhere on the continent. Many of the endemic species are confined to montane forest or alpine areas. We assessed impacts of loss of habitat to agriculture and predicted impacts from niche modelling of climate change to the endemic species of the Albertine Rift. Modelling species distributions for 162 endemic terrestrial vertebrates and plants, we estimated the average percentage of habitat already lost to agriculture at 38% across all species. However, of the remaining suitable habitat the average percentage protected is currently 46%, greatly increased by the recent establishment of Itombwe, Kabobo and Ngandja Reserves in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo from 30%. Species ranges in 2080 were estimated using climate models and predicted to lead to an average loss of an additional 75% of remaining suitable habitat across all species. An estimated 34 endemic species were predicted to lose >90% of their current remaining suitable habitat. The percentage of the total suitable habitat protected in parks or reserves increases under future climate change to 56% because as ranges contract more of the remaining area occurs within existing protected areas. This indicates that the protected area coverage is reasonably well located for future climate change. Based on these data we estimate that 46% of the endemic species we assessed would qualify for threatened status on the global Red List.
Biological Conservation – Elsevier
Published: Apr 1, 2018
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