Africa / Camels / Cattle / CCAFS / Climate Change / Goats / ILRI / Kenya / Small Ruminants

Climate change causing plant and animal species to move poleward, away from equator

Northeastern Kenya 17

These camels in northern Kenya are part of a large herd that will cover dozens of kilometres in search of water (photo on Flickr by Ann Weru/IRIN).

USA Today reports on a new paper in the prestigious journal Science that increasing temperatures are pushing plant and animal species to move uphill and northward at much faster rates than scientists realized.

‘A study published in today’s edition of the journal Science finds that, overall, species are moving to higher elevations at 36 feet per decade and higher latitudes at 10.5 miles per decade. The rate is two or three times faster than when it was last measured, in 2003.

The climate is shifting everything toward the north and higher altitudes,” says Chris Thomas, senior author on the paper and a professor of conservation biology at the University of York in the United Kingdom. Animals, plants and insects closer to the equator or at lower elevations “are starting to find it too hot and are retreating upwards.”

‘The study was a meta-analysis of studies covering 764 species moving north or south depending on which hemisphere they were in, and 1,367 species moving in elevation. Although each species moved at different rates and some even moved towards the equator or downhill, overall the strong trend was toward the poles or toward higher elevations. . . .

For farmers, what crops they grow and livestock they keep is also beginning to shift “due to changes in temperature but also shifts in rainfall patterns,” says Philip Thornton, an agricultural economist with the International Livestock Research Institute in Nairobi, Kenya.

‘In Africa, small farms are changing the kinds of animals they keep. Thornton is hearing anecdotal evidence of farmers switching from cattle to goats, because they’re more resilient. In Northern Kenya, there is a move “in some places away from the traditional cattle to camels, which are more drought resistant,” says Thornton, who is affiliated with the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

‘”The price of adult camels there is increasing quite rapidly,” he says.’

Read the whole article at USA Today: Temps push animal, plant species to higher elevations, 19 Aug 2011.

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