Global Warming Threatens Kilimanjaro Ecosystem
Tanzania and other third world countries have started to experience significant climate variability and climate change. Rivers are drying up. Groundwater is vanishing. Biodiversity is under siege.
Research over the past decade has found that climate change is already taking its toll on East Africa:
- Over the past years the climate in regions throughout the country has changed significantly indicating that by the end of the century, average temperatures are projected to increase between 1.90C and 3.60C, while sea level is projected to rise between 65 cm to one meter compared;
- Rainfall is said to decrease in the dry season and it is expected to increase during the rainy season, leading to a growing risk of floods, water shortage and related conflicts;
- Loss of ‘cloud forests’ since 1976 resulting in 25% annual reductions of water sources derived from fog, affecting annual drinking water of 1 million people living in Kilimanjaro.
- Rising temperature and changing rainfall affect agricultural production and water resources availability, hence threatening lives and livelihoods for millions of poor people;
- The medium and small rivers in the central and eastern parts of Tanzania, for example, could become exhausted in the dry season while underground water have been diminishing accompanied with water-salt intrusion leading to water shortages;
- The icecap on Mount Kilimanjaro has been disappearing with serious implications for the rivers that depend on ice melt for their flow. Several rivers are already drying out in the summer season due to depletion in melting water, and recent projections suggest that if the recession continues at its present rate, the ice cap may have disappeared completely by the year 2025. Kilimanjaro glaciers and snow cover have been retreating (55% of glacier loss between 1962 and 2000. Over the 20th century, the spatial extent of Kilimanjaro’s ice fields has decreased by 80%. It is suggested by some, that if current climatological conditions persist, the remaining ice fields are likely to disappear between 2015 and 2020 (for the first time in 11 000 years) ;
- Climate change is also expected to increase the severity, duration and frequency of weather related extreme events such as drought and floods, threatening water availability and food security for millions of poor people. So to say climate change is viewed as one of the gravest threats of the present and future of humanity in Tanzania;
- Climate change has been the main driver of biodiversity loss, and has already affected biodiversity resources. In the future, some species will not be able to keep up, leading to a sharp increase in extinction rates. This will result to more loss of revenues from tourism due to loss of key species (fauna and flora);
- Along with warming surface waters, deep water temperatures (which reflect long-term trends) of the large East African lakes (Victoria, Malawi) have warmed by 0.2 to 0.7°C since the early 1900s.
- Deep tropical lakes, are experiencing reduced algal abundance and declines in productivity because stronger stratification reduces upwelling of nutrient-rich deep water. Primary productivity in Lake Tanganyika may have decreased by up to 20% over the past 200 years, and for the East African Rift Valley lakes, recent declines in fish abundance have been linked with climatic impacts on lake ecosystems.
- The 1997-1998 coral bleaching observed in the Indian Ocean and Red Sea was coupled to a strong ENSO (an indication of the potential impact of climate-change induced ocean warming on coral reefs). In the western Indian Ocean region, a 30% loss of corals reduced tourism in Mombasa and Zanzibar and resulted in financial losses of about US$ 12-18 million.
- Mangroves and coral reefs, the main coastal ecosystems in Africa, will likely be affected by climate change. Endangered species associated with these ecosystems, including manatees and marine turtles, could also be at risk, along with migratory birds.