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Climate change and the African baobab (Adansonia digitata L.): the need for better conservation strategies

Aida Cuni Sanchez, Patrick E. Osborne, Nazmul Haq
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Journal Article
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The baobab tree, with more than 300 uses and commercial value in EU and United States, has been identified as one of the most important trees to be conserved and domesticated in Africa. A decline in baobab populations because of changes in climate could have a negative effect on African livelihoods. Therefore, it is important to study the potential future distribution of this species and determine strategies for conservation. We used Maxent, 480 geo-referenced records, present and future climatic and soil layers. Different general circulation models and scenarios were selected. Models were simulated for (i) All records, (ii) East Africa and (iii) West Africa species records. For each combination, the proportion of the present habitat that might remain suitable in the future was determined. These habitat proportions were compared with the Protected Areas in Africa. Although potential future distributions were different depending on model, scenario and records used, in all cases only a percentage of the present distribution was predicted to remain suitable in the future. Some countries were found to have no suitable habitat in the future. Recommendations for different conservation strategies include in situ conservation in Protected Areas; ex situ conservation in seed banks; and conservation through ‘sustainable utilization’.

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