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How Can Tanzania’s Biodiversity Amidst Climate Change Protecting Ecosystems?

(Photo by Luis Tato/For The Washington Post)

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Tanzania boasts a remarkable biodiversity, ranking among the world’s most biodiverse countries. It shelters six of only 25 globally recognized biodiversity hotspots and harbours 14,500 known species. But despite its richness, Tanzania faces a concerning trend, climate change challenges.

The country’s diverse ecosystems, land and water are deteriorating, impacting their ability to provide vital services. Many species populations are declining, with some on the verge of extinction. Despite efforts to protect these resources, nearly 40% of Tanzania’s land and water are designated protected areas, which remains alarming.

Biodiversity is critical to the national economy, contributing more than three-quarters of the national GDP and sustaining the livelihoods of most Tanzanians. Agriculture, livestock, forestry, and fisheries contribute over 65% of GDP and account for over 80% of total employment and over 60% of the total export earnings.

Furthermore, forests provide for over 90% of energy consumption in the country, while hydropower contributes about 37% of the power supply in the country. The average Total Economic Value (TEV) of catchment forest reserves was established to be more than 17,250 USD/ha. On the other hand, the tourism industry is now worth over US$1 billion annually.

Climate change is already altering Tanzania’s weather patterns. Rising temperatures, increasingly erratic rainfall patterns, and more frequent extreme weather events like droughts and floods disrupt the delicate balance of ecosystems. These changes lead to plant and animal range shifts, reproductive cycle disruptions, and food web alterations.

For instance, studies in the Serengeti National Park have shown that rising temperatures are causing changes in the distribution of grasses, impacting herbivores like wildebeests and zebras. Additionally, erratic rainfall patterns affect water availability, posing a threat to wildlife populations relying on specific water sources.

Sea Level Rise and its Effect on Coastal Areas

Tanzania’s extensive coastline is particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels, a direct consequence of climate change. Rising seas inundate coastal habitats, erode beaches, and increase salinity levels in coastal ecosystems. This disrupts the delicate balance of marine life and threatens the livelihoods of coastal communities that depend on fishing and tourism.

Mangrove forests, vital for coastal protection and carbon sequestration, are particularly at risk from rising sea levels. Studies suggest that large areas of mangroves could be lost in the coming decades due to inundation and saltwater intrusion, further exacerbating the impacts of climate change.

Habitat Loss and Fragmentation

Climate change interacts with other threats, like deforestation and unsustainable land-use practices, to exacerbate biodiversity loss. Changing weather patterns can lead to habitat loss as droughts and wildfires become more frequent and intense. This, coupled with habitat fragmentation caused by human activities, creates isolated species populations, reducing their genetic diversity and making them more vulnerable to extinction.

For example, the iconic chimpanzee populations in Tanzania’s Gombe National Park face the threat of habitat loss due to climate change-induced changes in vegetation patterns. Furthermore, reduced rainfall and increased aridity fragment chimpanzee habitats, potentially isolating groups and hindering their ability to move freely.

READ RELATED: Climate Change’s Silent Threat to Tanzania’s Wildlife Treasures.

The Interconnection Between Biodiversity and Ecosystems

Biodiversity, the variety of life in all its forms, encompasses many species that inhabit our planet, ranging from microscopic organisms to towering trees and majestic mammals. On the other hand, ecosystems are dynamic communities of living organisms interacting with their physical environment. Together, they form a complex web of relationships where each species plays a unique role, contributing to the health and resilience of the entire ecosystem.

However, the variety of biodiversity life in all its forms encompasses many species that inhabit our planet, ranging from microscopic organisms to towering trees and majestic mammals. On the other hand, ecosystems are dynamic communities of living organisms interacting with their physical environment. Together, they form a complex web of relationships where each species plays a unique role, contributing to the health and resilience of the entire ecosystem.

This diversity acts as a safety net, allowing ecosystems to adapt to disturbances, including climate change and human activities. Moreover, ecosystems, in turn, support and nurture biodiversity by providing habitats, food sources, and other essential resources.

On the other side, the intricate biodiversity connections within ecosystems demonstrate that the well-being of individual species is intertwined with the overall health of the entire ecological community. As such, biodiversity conservation becomes essential for the sake of individual species and for preserving ecosystems and the services they offer to humanity.

Critical Strategies for Biodiversity Conservation in Tanzania

National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP): This comprehensive document outlines Tanzania’s long-term vision for biodiversity conservation and sets out specific actions for achieving it. The current NBSAP (2015-2020) focuses on five key areas: improving knowledge and understanding of biodiversity; conserving and managing ecosystems; promoting sustainable use of natural resources; mainstreaming biodiversity conservation into national policies and plans; and building capacity for effective conservation action.

Protected Areas Network: Tanzania has established an extensive network, including national parks and marine and forest reserves. These protected areas cover over 40% of the country’s land surface and provide critical sanctuary for various species.

Community-Based Conservation: Recognizing local communities’ crucial role in managing natural resources, Tanzania has embraced community-based conservation initiatives. These programs empower communities to participate in conservation efforts, promote sustainable livelihoods, and develop a sense of ownership over their natural resources.

Sustainable Land Management Practices: Encouraging sustainable farming, fishing, and forestry practices is essential for reducing human impact on ecosystems and ensuring long-term viability. Tanzania has implemented various initiatives to promote these practices, including agroforestry, soil conservation techniques, and sustainable fishing methods.

Climate Change Adaptation Strategies: Climate change poses a significant threat to Tanzania’s biodiversity. The country is developing and implementing adaptation strategies to mitigate the impacts of climate change on ecosystems and species. These strategies include ecosystem restoration, promoting drought-resistant crop varieties, and investing in renewable energy sources.

Challenges

Shifting species distributions: As temperatures rise and weather patterns change, many species are forced to migrate outside their traditional ranges in search of suitable habitats. This can lead to food web disruptions, increased resource competition, and potential extinction events.

Habitat loss and degradation: Rising sea levels, extreme weather events like floods and droughts, and changes in precipitation patterns can cause habitat loss and degradation within protected areas. This can further diminish the available resources for wildlife and reduce the overall effectiveness of protected areas.

Increased risk of wildfires: Climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of wildfires, which can devastate vast areas of protected land. This can destroy vital habitats and release stored carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, further exacerbating climate change.

Invasive species: Climate changes can create favourable conditions for invasive species to thrive within protected areas, displacing native species and disrupting ecological balance.

Solutions in Managing Protected Areas Amidst Climate Change

Implementing proactive and adaptive management practices is vital to the climate change dilemma in protected areas. This involves continuously monitoring the impacts of climate change on ecosystems within these areas and adjusting management strategies accordingly.

Restoration efforts, such as reforestation and habitat rehabilitation, can help mitigate the effects of climate change on vulnerable species. Additionally, creating corridors that connect protected areas allows species to migrate and adapt to changing conditions, promoting genetic diversity and enhancing the overall resilience of ecosystems.

Collaboration between governments, local communities, and scientific institutions is crucial in developing and implementing comprehensive strategies addressing the multifaceted challenges of climate change in protected areas. By embracing innovation and fostering a collective commitment to conservation, we can strive to ensure these vital sanctuaries’ long-term sustainability and effectiveness in the face of a changing climate.

A digital personnel and Content Producer who has made a significant impact on media outlets with his exceptional writing skills. He is passionate about creating informative content and conducting research. Salvius obtained his degree in Journalism and Mass Communication at St. Augustine University of Tanzania, where he gained valuable experience through internships at Mwananchi Communication Newspaper. Salvius worked as a news editor and article reviewer at Scooper, also The south African website as the article writer, further refining his skills. Salvius's outstanding work in the field of digital journalism was recognized by Reuters which awarded him a digital journalism certificate. Salvius also is an environmental influence.

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