A “perfect storm” of climate change, habitat loss and human population growth could cause great apes in Africa to lose up to 94 percent of their homelands by 2050.
Researchers led by John Moores University in Liverpool have modeled how the monkeys will fair under both a business-as-usual and optimistic conservation-based scenario.
Even as steps are taken to protect the primates, the team found that their habitat is likely to shrink by 84 percent on top of the losses already suffered.
Great apes such as gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos are already endangered or critically endangered — but the changes they will face are “really bad,” the team said.
In fact, half of the habitat loss projected by the researcher’s models will occur in protected areas such as national parks.
A “perfect storm” of climate change, habitat loss and human population growth could cause great apes in Africa to lose up to 90 percent of their homelands by 2050. Pictured: A family of endangered mountain gorillas in DR Congo’s Virunga National Park
“It’s a perfect storm for many of our closest genetic relatives, many of which are flagship species for conservation efforts in Africa and worldwide,” said primate ecologist Joana Carvalho of John Moores University in Liverpool. the Watcher.
“If we add climate change to the current causes of territorial loss, the picture looks devastating,” she added.
In their study, Dr. Carvalho and colleagues provided data from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) on monkey populations, threats and conservation actions in hundreds of different locations in Africa over two decades.
They then modeled the likely future effects of global warming, habitat destruction, and humanity’s effects on monkey populations in two scenarios: one where action is taken to protect monkeys from these influences, and one where they don’t.
According to Dr Carvalho, the model carries inherent uncertainties, but, she told The Guardian, “change will come and not for the better. Even the series we see now are much smaller than they were before.’
The researchers noted that the climate crisis will make many lowlands, the preferred habitats of most great ape species, drier, hotter and less hospitable.
As a result, great apes will likely prefer to migrate to upland areas, at least where available.
Climate change, paper author and biologist Fiona Maisels of the Wildlife Conservation Society told The Guardian, will “force the different types of vegetation to essentially shift uphill.”
This, she added, “means that all animals – not just great apes – that depend on certain habitat types will be forced to move uphill or become locally extinct.”
“But if the hills are low, many species will not be able to reach higher than the land allows, and huge numbers of animals and plants will simply disappear.”
In their study, Dr. Carvalho and colleagues analyzed data from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) on monkey populations, threats and conservation actions in hundreds of different locations in Africa over two decades. Pictured: chimpanzees climbing into the forest canopy
The team then modeled the likely future effects of global warming, habitat destruction and humanity’s effects on monkey populations in two scenarios: one in which action is taken to protect monkeys from these influences, and one in which they do not. the case is. Pictured: Range variations for different Gorilla species (above) and members of the Pan genus (eg, chimpanzees and bonobos). Areas with range loss are shown in light brown and gains are shown in green
Compared to many other species, great apes can migrate poorly because they have a specific diet, a low population density and they reproduce slowly.
Because of this, Dr Carvalho told The Guardian, many of their species may not be able to adapt in time to their changing conditions.
The team’s model showed that the expected range losses were not much better in the scenario where efforts were made to combat climate change, habitat loss and other human-induced influences on the monkeys.
Specifically, this still resulted in an 85 percent loss of habitat, compared to 94 percent in a ‘business as usual’ scenario.
“What is predicted is really bad,” Dr Carvalho told The Guardian.
Currently, the mining, palm oil and timber industries are among the greatest threats to great ape populations. There must be a global responsibility to halt the decline of great apes,” primate author and conservationist Hjalmar Kühl of the German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research in Leipzig told the Guardian.
According to the researchers, the key to counteracting the loss of range of the great apes in the future is to enable migration by creating connections between places where monkeys live — in addition to creating new protected areas for them to move around.
As an example of quality conservation already being undertaken, the team pointed to efforts in Gabon, Central Africa, where agriculture, mining and road and rail construction are focusing on already degraded areas rather than intact forests.
However, the experts said the greatest protection for the great apes may come in the form of consumers from wealthy countries demanding sustainably produced goods.
Currently, the mining, palm oil and timber industries are among the greatest threats to great ape populations.
“There must be a global responsibility for halting the decline of great apes,” article author and primate conservationist Hjalmar Kühl of the German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research in Leipzig told The Guardian.
“All countries that benefit from these resources have a responsibility to ensure a better future for great apes, their habitats and the people who live there.”
The study’s full findings were published in the journal Diversity and distributions.
WHY ARE PRIMATES NUMBERS DECREASING IN THE WILD?
A study published in January 2017 warned that it is now “the eleventh hour” on Earth for most of the world’s 504 primate species — with nearly two-thirds in danger of extinction and 75 percent of populations in decline.
Researchers have warned the world’s primates are at risk from human activities
Behind the slump in numbers is an increase in industrial agriculture, large-scale ranching, logging, oil and gas drilling, mining, dam construction and road construction.
The illegal bushmeat trade – killing monkeys and monkeys for their meat – is also decimating the animals, as well as changing climates and diseases spreading from human to monkey.
Growing trees for palm oil production – which is used in many popular foods – poses a particular threat to primates in Indonesia, as does gold and sapphire mining in Madagascar.
Because many species live in rainforests, cutting down millions of acres of forest to meet the increasing demand for timber or clear land for agriculture is destroying their habitat and making populations more fragmented.