Last week, I attended a symposium on Climate Change and Agriculture in Cape Town. The symposium was hosted by Lyndon Estes, a post doc from Princeton University in the USA. Lyndon and his team have been working on various climate change models to determine the potential future of the agricultural landscape for wheat and maize across South Africa. Together with a number of collaborators, partners and others working on agriculture and climate change, the two day symposium was filled with what models predict the future could look like.
More than 50% of the world’s population of Blue Cranes are found in the agricultural landscape of the Western Cape, dependent on the complex wheat field/pasture mosaic and the rotational agricultural system currently in place. This agricultural landscape though is under threat of change as a result of climate change predictions that suggest that the climate of the Western Cape will change significantly in the future.
The symposium really highlighted so many of the uncertainties in modelling and trying to predict what will happen in the future. So, although a clear idea of what the future will look like would be great, I have realised that we are still a long way off from having a good idea of those changes. In the interim and shorter term though, we know that economic and social drivers will be the primary factors driving change in the area. The challenge now is developing an action plan that negates the immediate, current and short term threats, whilst considering the longer term changes in the landscape as a result of climate change. What we do know is that we need monitoring systems for Blue Cranes in the area that will allow us to monitor any changes in the population that can be attributed to climate change – this information, together with the improved models over time, will allow for adaptation of conservation efforts and prioritisation.