Climate change in Uganda
The climate in Uganda is changing. Records from different parts of the country indicate that the temperature is increasing steadily (by as much as 20Cin some areas where forest cover has been removed) and that rainfall in increasing in western Uganda but decreasing in the east. Heightened variability of the planting season is becoming a challenge for farmers and is likely to lead to increased food in security. These changes are not only attributable to increased green house gases in the atmosphere. Changing land use from forests and wetlands to agriculture is also an important factor contributing to climate change in this country.
The impacts of these changes on both wildlife and their habitats as well as people are unknown at present. There are plenty of theories and suggestions about what changes may take place and a great need to collate data and start to test these theories.WCS has been looking in particular at how climate is likely to change in the Albertine Rift region of Western Uganda.
WCS’s interventions on climate change
1. Climate change simulations: WCS has carried out climate change simulations to forecast how climate change is likely to affect western Uganda and how conservation managers and governments need to adapt to these changes. Our results predict that temperatures will rise by at least 20C from global climate change alone, but that clearance of forest is likely to double this warming. Rainfall will increase in western Uganda but most of the increase will occur in the September-November wet season, and is likely to lead to increased flooding and erosion at this time.Dry seasons may become longer and more variable. These simulations are based on the current global climate models but there is a need to test these predictions.
Additionally, WCS compiled climate data from around the Greater Virunga Landscape to assess changes that have occurred over the past 50-60 years in this region. The results do show a trend of increasing rainfall since 1960/70 to the present and where temperature data exist these have increased. WCS has established automated weather stations to monitor these changes over time in some of the protected areas and is designing a web portal to help generate summaries of the data from these stations and other automatic stations. In the longer term we will be assessing the climate change impacts on vegetation at these sites.
2. Modelling species distributions: Given our extensive biodiversity surveys in western Uganda we are able to model species distributions under the current climate and also under future simulated climates. This enables us to begin predicting how climate will affect species of conservation concern in the future. The results are showing that even a 2-30C increase in temperature may lead to the need for many species to move up in altitude by about 1,500 metres. For the endemic species in the Albertine Rift this is particularly critical in conserving elevational gradients will be important if they are to survive.
In addition to this type of research, WCS is also developing projects to mitigate climate change by conserving forests which are huge reservoirs of carbon and can contribute to keeping temperatures down:
- WCS has been working with partners on conserving corridor forests in the Murchison-Semliki Landscape and looking at options for generating carbon credits to incentivize farmers to conserve their forests using REDD+.
- WCS is raising awareness in this same landscape of the importance of the ecosystem services provided by forests and the potential impacts of climate change on rural communities to prepare them for future climate change.
- WCS is looking to raise funding to train farmers in conservation farming, using agroforestry and water conservation techniques to encourage increasing tree cover which will bring temperatures down and also to reduce the need to clear forested land for more agriculture.