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Conservation of endemic Central African trees through IUCN Red Listing and Species Distribution Modelling

Project: Research

Description

Central Africa (Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Burundi) is a botanically highly diverse region housing around 11,000 species of vascular plants species, of which approximately 2,500 are trees. Botanic Garden Meise is a member of BGCI (Botanic Gardens Conservation International). Through their Global Tree Assessment, BGCI in collaboration with the IUCN/SSC Global Tree Specialist Group (GTSG) wants to facilitate global tree conservation by establishing conservation assessments of the world’s tree species by 2020.
Botanic Garden Meise will team up with the BGCI and GTSG to coordinate the efforts of two IUCN authorities, the IUCN Central African plants Red List Authority (CARLA, for DR Congo) and the East African Plants Red List Authority (EAPRLA, for Rwanda and Burundi), to arrive at full IUCN Red List assessments for all c. 400 tree species (sub-)endemic to Central Africa. These will be available on the web, but the results will also be converted into a well-illustrated book aimed at a broad user group.
The project will create a unique database of herbarium records related to (sub-)endemic trees in Central Africa. These data already form an invaluable source of information for the Red List assessments, but we will further increase their utility for conservation by applying Species Distribution Modelling techniques. With that, we explore several issues: (1) using predicted distributions as a parameter of extinction risk, (2) the potential impact of climate change on future tree species distributions, and (3) the effectiveness of the Central African protected area network in terms of conserving (sub-)endemic trees now and in the future. Using Geographical Information Systems to project their locality data on climate, soil and altitude data layers, the environmental envelope and potential distribution of each endemic tree species can be assessed. A PhD student/Postdoc will analyse these models and conclude about the potential use of these novel techniques for Red Listing activities. Also, using additional data collected during fieldwork, the accuracy of the produced models will be rigorously tested, which should lead to a further refinement and improvement of the modelling techniques. Finally, the accumulated distribution models will be used to identify hotspots of endemic tree species, as well as the potential impact of climate change in the decades to come on species richness patterns. The present-day Central African network of protected areas will be evaluated in the light of climate change and improvements suggested. BGM will actively seek out to Central African GO’s and NGO’s active in conservation to communicate the results and have them implemented in various conservation activities.

Key findings

IUCN Red Listings of all c. 400 endemic Central African trees
Species distribution models for most of the c. 400 endemic Central African trees
Improved conservation activities concerning endemic central African trees
Short titleEndemic Central African trees
AcronymECAT
StatusFinished
Effective start/end date1/01/1831/12/21
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