Conservation during times of change: Correlations between birds, climate and people in South Africa
Few studies have investigated the ability of national conservation networks to adapt to changes in underlying environmental drivers (such as precipitation) and their consequences for factors such as human density and species richness patterns. In this article, the South African avifauna is used as the basis for such analysis to ascertain the likely extent of current, and future, anthropogenic impacts on priority conservation areas. We show that human population pressure is high in or around most of these priority areas and is likely to increase, given the magnitude of post-climate change estimated from predicted changes in precipitation and relationships between species richness, human densities, and rainfall. Although additional conservation areas, such as the Important Bird Area (IBA) network, are likely to introduce valuable flexibility to conservation management, only limited options are available for such expansions, and the conservation value of these areas is likely to be compromised by changing climate. Ultimately, a more integrated conservation approach is needed for effective conservation policies. Such an approach should confer adequate protection on current reserves and emphasize sustainable utilization of non-reserve areas.