Making African Forests Fit for Climate Change

Africa is expected to face particularly high impacts from climate change. At the same time, people in Africa are highly dependent on forest goods and services and therefore particularly vulnerable to climate change.

A key finding of the publication "Adaptation of Forests and People to Climate Change – A global assessment report”, prepared in the frame of the CPF Global Forest Expert Panels (GFEP), was that the amount and quality of globally available scientific information varies significantly among regions. The particular impacts of change and the appropriate adaptive responses are local, and hence there is a need for adaptation reports to be tailored to regional areas.

Therefore, GFEP and the IUFRO Special Programme for Developing Countries (IUFRO-SPDC) initiated in autumn 2009 the preparation of a regional policy brief "Making African Forests Fit for Climate Change" in collaboration with the thematic group "Forest and climate change” of the Forestry Research Network for Sub-Saharan Africa (FORNESSA). The policy brief is based on a detailed analysis of relevant information contained in the global assessment report and more than 250 additional literature references identified by the African experts. It aims to contribute to the development of effective adaptation strategies in Africa and facilitate related international efforts.

The policy brief "Making African Forests Fit for Climate Change" was formally presented at the 14th meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice of the Convention on Biological Diversity, held from 10 to 21 May 2010 in Nairobi, Kenya.


Photo taken by Ernest Foli

In 2009, the unprecedented flooding of large tracts of agricultural land in Ghana's northern savanna region resulted in a significant loss of agricultural crops, hundreds of thousands of head of livestock, and the property of thousands of needy farmers. The plight of people living in the region was worsened by the pollution of the few sources of potable water and a consequent increase in water-borne diseases.

Photo taken by Mike Wingfield

Climate change is assisting fungi and insects to invade Euphorbia ingens in South Africa, leading to its widespread death.

Photo taken by Mike Wingfield

In southern Africa, baobab trees provide a variety of traditional products. The regeneration potential of baobab is limited by factors not related to climate, such as livestock grazing, and by climatic influences, such as those affecting the incidence and severity of fire.