Biodiversity and Climate Change in Central Africa: Perceptions, Attitudes and Policies

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 14:30
Location: Hörsaal BIG 2 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Trevon FULLER, University of California, Los Angeles, USA
Anthony TROCHEZ, University of California, Los Angeles, USA
Paul LOUNDOU, Institut de Recherche en Ecologie Tropicale (IRET), Gabon
Serge KAMGANG, Ecole de Faune de Garoua, Cameroon
Thomas NARINS, University at Albany-State University of New York, USA
Thomas SMITH, University of California, Los Angeles, USA
Walter ALLEN, University of California, Los Angeles, USA
Central Africa’s biodiversity represents 20% of Earth’s species and is threatened by rural poverty and climate change. In the past decade, immense poverty (39% of the population) has contributed to unsustainable harvest of wildlife for economic gain. In the next 80 years, scientists predict that climate change will extirpate half of the region’s mammals. As part of a multidisciplinary project supported by NSF Partnerships for International Research and Education (PIRE), we are developing approaches to conserve biodiversity under climate change that are evolutionarily-informed and grounded in the socioeconomic constraints of Central Africa. The biological aspect of the project characterizes genomic diversity in nine taxa representing a broad taxonomic range. The socio-economic aspect examines the impact of park establishment and climate change in villages within the buffer zones of four recently-established national parks in Cameroon and Gabon: Ebo Forest, Mbam Djerem, Crystal Mountains, and Bateke Plateau. We hypothesized that households within the buffer zones would have greater access to plant and animal protein than controls.

To test this hypothesis, focus groups were conducted in five villages within the buffer zones in June and July 2015 (n=28 participants). Participants reported that climate change and spillover of large mammals from national parks are impeding the practice of agriculture. Climate change has shifted rainy season timing and increased cassava pathogens, causing crop failure. Elephants living in nearby parks routinely ventured into villages while foraging and destroyed agricultural fields. These unfavorable economic circumstances prompted the immigration of young people to urban areas (average villager age was 59 years). The findings suggest that conservation programs aimed to preserve wildlife in national parks should also provide payments or food shipments to buffer zone communities to compensate for crop losses, thereby reducing human-wildlife conflict in this biodiversity hotspot.

For additional details, see: http://www.caballiance.org/