The symposium on Climate Change, Agriculture and Biodiversity in South Africa is a 2 day symposium focusing on the potential interactions between climate change, agriculture, and biodiversity in South Africa will be held on August 17‐18th, 2011 at the South African National Biodiversity Institute in Cape Town.
Background: In 2008, Princeton University and Conservation International began a joint project to address an aspect of climate change that has been largely overlooked by the conservation community: what are the potential impacts of human adaptation to climate change on biodiversity? Such indirect, or second order, impacts may affect biodiversity and ecosystems more profoundly than changing temperature and precipitation regimes (Turner et al. 2010).
To explore this possibility, we are investigating climate change adaptation in agriculture, one of the most spatial extensive human land uses. Our study focuses on South Africa, a country with a large agricultural sector and high biodiversity importance where climate change impacts are projected to be large (IPCC 2007). To conduct this study, the collaboration has expanded to include the Universities of Cape Town and KwaZulu‐Natal, the Agricultural Research Council and National Department of Agriculture, and South African National Parks, as well as other South African contributors. The goal of our research is to model climate change impacts to wheat and maize, the two largest crops by area, using a novel approach that combines a downscaled climate model ensemble with paired empirical and process‐based crop models. The resulting maps of suitability/productivity changes are overlaid on existing protected areas (PAs) and those identified by the National Protected Areas Expansion Strategy (NPAES), highlighting where conservation threats or opportunities stemming from agricultural change are likely to be greatest. We then examine potential land‐use and conservation scenarios for these areas, in order to understand how land‐use might be optimized for both biodiversity and development needs.
Our work is a complement to the substantial climate change impacts research that has been conducted in South Africa. The motivation behind this symposium is to place our findings within the broader context of existing climate change impacts knowledge, and to incorporate other results that will help improve understanding of the conservation consequences of agricultural adaptation to climate change. This symposium will have three major goals:
1. To determine how this work can contribute to agricultural and conservation planning in South Africa;
2. To compare this work with related research;
3. To share datasets and methods arising from this work.
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