Endemic species and ecosystem sensitivity to climate change in Namibia

  • Thuiller W
  • Midgley G
  • Hughes G
 et al. 
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We present a first assessment of the potential impacts of anthropogenic climate change on the endemic flora of Namibia, and on its vegetation structure and function, for a projected climate in similar to 2050 and similar to 2080. We used both niche-based models (NBM) to evaluate the sensitivity of 159 endemic species to climate change (of an original 1020 plant species modeled) and a dynamic global vegetation model (DGVM) to assess the impacts of climate change on vegetation structure and ecosystem functioning.Endemic species modeled by NBM are moderately sensitive to projected climate change. Fewer than 5% are predicted to experience complete range loss by 2080, although more than 47% of the species are expected to be vulnerable (range reduction > 30%) by 2080 if they are assumed unable to migrate. Disaggregation of results by life-form showed distinct patterns. Endemic species of perennial herb, geophyte and tree life-formsare predicted to be negatively impacted in Namibia, whereas annual herb and succulent endemic species remain relatively stable by 2050 and 2080. Endemic annual herb species are even predicted to extend their range north-eastward into the tree and shrub savanna with migration, and tolerance of novel substrates. The current protected area network is predicted to meet its mandate by protecting most of the current endemicity in Namibia into the future. Vegetation simulated by DGVM is projected to experience a reduction in cover, net primary productivity and leaf area index throughout much of the country by 2050, with important implications for the faunal component of Namibia's ecosystems, and the agricultural sector. The plant functional type (PFT) composition of the major biomes may be substantially affected by climate change and rising atmospheric CO2- currently widespread deciduous broad leaved trees and C-4 PFTs decline, with the C-4 PFT particularly negatively affected by rising atmospheric CO2 impacts by similar to 2080 and deciduous broad leaved trees more likely directly impacted by drying and warming. The C-3 PFT may increase in prominence in the northwestern quadrant of the country by similar to 2080 as CO2 concentrations increase. These results suggest that substantial changes in species diversity, vegetation structure and ecosystem functioning can be expected in Namibia with anticipated climate change, although endemic plant richness may persist in the topographically diverse central escarpment region.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Namibia
  • climate change
  • dynamic global vegetation model (DGVM)
  • ecosystem functioning
  • niche-based model (NBM)
  • protected areas
  • species' range shift

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  • W Thuiller

  • G F Midgley

  • G O Hughes

  • B Bomhard

  • G Drew

  • M C Rutherford

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