New study focuses on climate change impacts in equatorial region
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Researchers combining genetic information from rare African monkeys with historic climate data from the mid-Holocene era say the species could face a significant threat if the forest dries out and vegetation becomes sparser amid warming temperatures.
Researchers discovered genetic signs that coincide with the conditions that mirror current climate projections for the equator around the globe in the next 100 years.
“Looking at its modern genetic diversity, you can infer changes in past population size,” said Nelson Ting, a professor of anthropology at the University of Oregon. “The drills went through a large population collapse — as much as 15-fold. This occurred sometime around the mid-Holocene, which was about 3,000 to 5,000 years ago,” he explained.
The species also is struggling for survival because of poaching and by habitat loss due to logging and cultivation activities. Drill meat also is a valued food; hunters often shoot them en masse. Protecting drill populations was the top priority of the African Primate Conservation Action Plan developed in 1996 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
“Hunting continues and is the much more immediate danger facing the drill,” Ting said.
In the mid-Holocene, temperatures across equatorial Africa were hotter and dryer, with a reduction of forest cover that the drill need for survival. The ecology of the region also includes multiple other species found only there. The research, Ting said, is among emerging work focusing on past climate conditions in equatorial areas. Many studies have been done on conditions in both temperate and arctic regions.
The findings carry conservation implications, Ting said.
“We could see many of these equatorial forests becoming very arid. Forest will be lost as vegetation changes to adapt to dryer conditions. Our findings show that this type of animal, which already is very much endangered because of hunters, would not be able to deal with the level of climate changes that could be coming.”
Filed under: climate and weather, endangered species, Environment, global warming Tagged: | climate change, Environment, global warming, Holocene, International Union for Conservation of Nature, University of Oregon