Department of Biology

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Henrik Balslev

Climate change sensitivity of the African ivory nut palm, Hyphaena petersiana Klotzsch ex Mart. (arecaceae) - a keystone species in SE Africa

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  • Ecoinformatics & Biodiversity
Africa is the most vulnerable continent to future climate change. Profound changes are projected for southwestern Africa with increased drying, notably with delayed onset of the rainy season in September-November, and temperature increases in all seasons. The projected climate changes combined with land-use changes are thought to constitute the main threats to biodiversity in the 21st century. To be able to predict the potential impact on biodiversity, it is crucial to achieve a better insight into the controls of contemporary species ranges. Using species distribution modeling, we assessed the climate sensitivity of the key-stone palm species Hyphaene petersiana (African ivory nut palm) in southern Africa. We tested the relative roles of climate vs. non-climatic range-controls and found that climate had a clear effect on the range of H. petersiana and that especially water-related variables (annual precipitation and precipitation driest quarter) were of high importance. Nevertheless, latitude was the overall most dominant variable, reflecting spatial constraints on the continental-scale distribution. Of the remaining non-climatic factors, soil type and human influence were as important as the climatic factors. A future decrease in annual precipitation below 400 mm and hydrological changes towards drier conditions could cause a dramatic decline in H. petersiana populations, while the influence of temperature changes is less clear. The ongoing, unsustainable utilization pressures on this palm species by humans and livestock are likely to exacerbate the negative effect of future climate changes on its populations, especially, given the expected human population increase in Africa.
Original languageEnglish
JournalIOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science
Pages (from-to)012014
Publication statusPublished - 2009

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