A study published in the journal Plos One outlines how remaining within the goals of the Paris Agreement would save many species in Kenya.
The study also identifies places that could be restored to protect biodiversity and contribute towards global ecosystem restoration.
The paper modelled climate change-related risks to the terrestrial biodiversity (birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and plants) of the Tana River Basin. Large reductions in species richness compared with pre-industrial levels are projected with just two degrees Celsius warming and birds and plants will likely feel the greatest impact.
The study identified potential spaces within the basin where many species could survive in a warmer world known as refugia but many such areas are already converted to agriculture or set aside for agricultural expansion zones. Similarly, some protected areas contain no projected refugia at higher levels of global warming, showing they may be insufficient to protect the basin's biodiversity as climate changes.
The research found that at least 23 percent of Kenya's Tana River Basin could act as refugia if temperatures remain within the goals of the Paris Agreement, which aims to keep global warming well below two degrees Celsius. Researcher Rhosanna Jenkins carried out the study as part of her PhD at UEA's School of Environmental Sciences.
"This research shows how many species within Kenya's Tana River Basin will be unable to survive if global temperatures continue to rise as they are on track to do. But remaining within the goals of the Paris Agreement, which aims to keep global warming well below two degrees Celsius, ideally at 1.5°C, would save many species this is because large areas of the basin act as refugia from climate change," said Jenkins.
With higher warming levels, not only are the refugias lost but also the potential for restoration becomes more limited. "The United Nations declared the 2020s as the 'Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.' Our results show the importance of considering climate change within these restoration efforts," researchers said.