Summary: Globally, great ape populations and their habitats have drastically declined in recent history. New analysis published today (June 7) reveals that if the pressures on their habitat remain unchecked,
Original author and publication date: Lou Corpuz-Bosshart – June 7, 2021
Futurizonte Editor’s Note: From “The Planet of the Apes” (fiction) to “A Planet with No Apes” (reality) in just a few generations.
From the article:
Africa’s great apes could lose between 85 per cent and 94 per cent of their range by the year 2050. As their range shrinks, their chances for survival also diminish.
In this Q&A, Jacqueline Sunderland-Groves, a great ape expert in UBC’s faculty of forestry who contributed to the study, explains what can be done to ensure the long-term survival of gorillas, chimpanzees and other great apes.
Why is range critical to the existence of great apes?
Range is the geographic area naturally occupied by a species. Across their current range, African great ape populations are distributed within 21 countries. Unfortunately, the majority of their range occurs outside of recognized protected areas and as land-use, climate and human population density increase, great apes will lose huge areas of their habitat.
For example, climate change will result in some lowland habitats becoming warmer and drier. Lowland vegetation will extend upwards to nearby mountains. All animals reliant on those habitats will have to shift their range or face local extinction.
What were the key findings of the study?
This study is the first to combine climate, land-use and human population changes in an ensemble forecasting approach to predict specific distributions of African apes by 2050. In the best-case scenario, we can expect a range decline of 85 per cent, 50 per cent of which is outside of protected areas. And worst-case we would see a range decline of 94 per cent, of which 61 per cent is outside of protected areas. Potentially, and if great ape populations do shift their range in response to changing landscapes, we can expect some significant range gains, but there is no guarantee that they will.
Most importantly, this study shows that we have time to mitigate these predictions.
Some climate change-related range loss can be avoided if appropriate management measures are taken, together with increasing the protected area network within great ape range states based on suitable habitats for them.